KunstRAI Connected, a virtual preview fair. While the physical KunstRAI fair has been postponed another time, online a show has been curated. 80 galleries present 10 works each. Galerie Bart presents a solo presentation by Sjaak Kooij. Last year, his solo exhibition Enter the Zone at Galerie Bart unfortunately ended in the first lockdown, and his work deserves another chance to be seen. Four paintings from Enter the Zone are combined with six more recent works, all finding their origins in the same city, New York.
A strikingly vivid and contrasting use of colours draws you into the image, where a feeling that is both familiar and eerie takes hold of you. Is it the nature of the image, or the confrontation with ourselves? The seamy side of society is a recurring theme in the work of Sjaak Kooij (1982, NL). A residency in New York City in 2019 shifted the focus of his newest paintings even more to the raw reality, or its reflection. Recognizable but at the same time dystopian streetscapes, where human control seems to have loosened its grip and nature can take its course. The stillness of the images emphasizes the traces we leave on our environment. We see a paper bag from McDonald’s, laughing gas canisters and garbage lying around, sometimes already overgrown with weeds. Rubbish that seems to have gathered by chance, now almost takes on a different meaning. Painted like contemporary Vanitas still lifes, they point out the transience of human life – and in the broader sense, of the Earth.
People are always the central subjects in the work of Sjaak. Whether it concerns the traces they left behind, or the street scenes in which the characters themselves are playing the main role. Like the portraits of passers-by, caught in inattentive moments. The roughness of the street, again the seamy side, is reflected in this work. From notes, sketches and street photography in New York, these figures have come to life in the paintings. Earlier portraits served more as studies, the absence of a further narrative offered freedom for experimentation. However, in Sjaak’s recent series of ‘passengers’ we view the people more intimately. Capturing their personality, their reveries and feelings in the moment. And with that, as spectators, we feel closer to these accidental passers-by.
• Visit the website of KunstRAI Connected.
• More about Sjaak Kooij.