A living snake wrapped around a face, a dozen of ladybugs, a scorpio and an howl using that same face as a structure. That is the set up of a fantastic photography series by Juul Kraijer called ‘Penumbrae’. The titles evokes darkness and shadows. It’s what we are getting visually and internally. The artist is inspired to manipulate reality, in the end, she gets to manipulate us, the viewer, in a disconcerting way.
The models are just the vehicle for ideas, they are not to be considered like portraits, nor are the animals. Clearly the main subject is twosome: the fusion between the animal and the face and the dark background. The intriguing face/animal amalgamation stands out from the shade, as if it had been sitting in the dark for an eternity. It will appear for a brief moment and then will go back into the gloom exactly the way we saw it at first, for all times.
Imperturbable tranquillity is the general tone. Despite a unsettling scenario that could create an anxious atmosphere, the calm sported by the faces leaves a mark of grace, the same expression that is usually found in Renaissance portraiture.
Juul Kraijer is fascinated by surrealist photography, hence the execution of her series. Surrealism is about getting rid of the mind and the reason to only let the imagination dive and drive into the interpretation of the picture. Ideas and dogmas cannot be suggested, personal understanding cannot be captured.
The artist has created provocative poses. By elevating the animals on top of the faces she questions the hierarchies between humans and animals, models and accessories. The fact that the roles are reversed creates intensity, almost a tension. Comparably to the symbol of eternity described above, the use of the mirrors creates oddity and redundancy, which extends the feeling coming out from the photographs.
The viewer is tempted to look away but there’s an indescribable attraction, a desire to see more.
Juul Kraijer is represented by The Wapping Bankside Project in London, UK. The photographs are available in books which can be order here.
Copyright: Juul Kraijer, Courtesy: The Wapping Project Bankside
This article was published on Beautiful Decay on July 30th 2015