By Dominique Nahas©2010
The scribbling of Joost de Jonge merit our immediate attention on several fronts. Importantly the artist has made a considerable advance as these works relate to his earlier paintings in the sense that the vitalistic energy and radiance remains intact. Yet another set of characteristics emerges from him through the scribbles. Instead of the essentially well-organized synthetically brightly hued neo-modernist surfaces that bespeak (chromatically) of influences from de Stijl and theCoBrA movements, de Jonge’s scribble drawings introduce a figural element. This aspect allows the picture plane to be broken up into several discreet quadrants (as in a split screen) as in Module 11 and Module 13 in which the three parts bands seem to infer three simultaneous yet different realms of existence. In other drawings the figural elements emerge as small free-floating animated entities, three-dimensionalized objects or 3-d calligraphic elements that are often punctured with hollows and cavities, suspended, seemingly, in space. These parts, whose three- dimensionalized sections often contain striped areas, have a jaunty, comedic sensibility that seems anthropomorphically derived. At times these forms appear in a centralized zone as in #39 jpg and assume an outsized totemic quality that appears vaguely Middle Eastern in its contours.
Often used pejoratively and applied dismissively “the scribble” normatively is ascribed to image making that is of the child, of the instinctive drives, of the Id unleashed. The scribble is not meant to be taken ”seriously” by serious men. It is considered a tossed-off, unkempt, atavistic, and unreflective energetic regime. The scribble, then, is a signifier of an aestheticized (so-called) disposition that is given no intellectual, ideational or iconographic credit. Words that are close in derogatory connotations to the scribble are the scrawl, the scratch, the scrabble and cacography. You can hear it in the language: the guttural sounds emanating from the body--- the anus, the intestines (not the elevated part of the human sensorium: the brain, the spirit, the soul). The scribble is, as George Bataille would put it, companion of the base and the low. The scrawl and the scribble are slacker energies. By definition they cannot be harnessed to good “productive” use. The scribble is mischievous (if not cunning) expression. It is seen as trying to get away with something (something like good, honest ethical effort). The scribble is impertinent and invalidates the rules of “significant form.”
There is a youthfully invigorated quality to Joost de Jonge’s scribbles that seem incidental and tossed –off, mistakes and outtakes as (at best) preliminary but thoroughly expendable detritus towards the service of a finer and more noble end: the paintings of high-chroma for which the painter has developed a considerable reputation internationally. This is not the case of course as these “tossed –off’ color line drawings are fully realized and intensely intentionalized artworks. They are fully integral to the vision that de Jonge has developed throughout his career. In these works as in prior efforts de Jonge explores physical, mental and psychical energies that course through his body as he makes these drawings in a distracted (yet fully engaged in-the –present) state of consciousness. While the sketch-like aspect of the scribbles appears to insinuate abandon and lack of focus, quite the reverse is true. The scribbles attest to de Jonge’s confident mastery of his medium, they appear effortless and spontaneous, as they exist in a free-form space that is reminiscent of the space of Calder and Miro, an energized universe that is carnivalesque in character. It is a truism I suppose to say that authentic exploration within visual culture is born out of ultimate freedom as well as by necessity yet this is so evident in the work of de Jonge. There is yet again that unmistakable whiff of innocence that permeates his forms. In 1863 the French art critic Charles Baudelaire asserted in Le Figaro in one of his seminal essays later collectively titled The Painter of Modern Life that the deep-set layer of creative activity…“ …is nothing more or less than childhood recovered at will.” Baudelaire continues …” It is by this deep and joyful curiosity that we may explain the fixed and animally ecstatic gaze of a child confronting somewhere new whatever it may be, whether a face or a landscape, gilding, colors, shimmering stuffs or the magic of physical beauty…”
The scribble drawings of Joost de Jonge pulse with vitality through their suggested interplay between control and spontaneity fusing the co-existent consciousness of the child and adult. In Freidrich Schelling’s words “ art reflects for us the identity of conscious and unconscious activity…the basic character of a work of art is thus an unconscious infinity (synthesis of nature and freedom).” Such integrative capacities are at the heart of de Jonge’s susceptibilities towards a desire to meld opposites, to keep them suspended. Importantly, the drawings are, finally, signifiers of this artist’s probing yet playful inquiries on the conditions of how we perceive and what we perceive in the world through the heart and the mind.
Dominique Nahas is an independent curator and critic based in Manhattan. He is a 2010-11 critic in residence at Maryland Institute College of Arts Hoffberger Graduate School and is currently a visiting critic at RISD. Nahas teaches critical studies as a regular faculty member at Pratt Institute and at the New York Studio Residency Program.
His most recent monograph “The Worlds of Hunt Slonem” will be released by The Vendome Press in March 2010.