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Folkert de Jong

Maybe it’s a superhero
with a beer belly

In 2020 and 2021, Folkert de Jong was the first Church warden of the Great Church of Veere to hang up ship models made of paraffin. Much earlier, in the year 2000, he recreated the studio from which he had previously worked on his insane character ‘The Illemauzer’ in the annex of Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art. And five years ago, during Façades second edition, he placed the heads of three Middelburg pastors in the shadow of the Oostkerk. In other words: De Jong is a well-known guest in Zeeland. During the third edition of Façade he will be present again, this time in front of the entrance to the Abbey Churches with a life-sized doll that makes you want to touch it.

Folkert de Jong, an artist creating sculptures and drawings, has been in the art profession for 25 years. He made a name for himself with human figures in poisonous colours. By now, he could form an entire army of mutants, zombies, witch hunters and serial killers with them.

“I’m fascinated by people who fly off the handle,” he mentioned during previous exhibitions. He also said that he always liked watching movies about psychopaths. “I’ve been quite influenced by underground horror films like ‘The Texas Chainsaw Messacre’. People find it strange that I’m into that. I think everyone has a fascination for sex and violence. We just don’t like to admit it. It is my role as an artist to point out that this fascination is part of our nature.”

His new installation ‘Vagevuur’ (purgatory) in Middelburg is not exactly a horror doll. “Maybe it’s an alien,” says the artist. “In any case, it’s a sexless figure, neither male nor female. With a height of 2.20 meters, it’s a kind of Hercules, a superhero with a beer belly. The doll is stood on two industrial springs, the surface is soft. You are allowed to touch him/her. Hitting is also allowed. I’m very curious to find out what the presence of that doll will do to the audience. Hopefully, it will also activate people who are not so much into art. The title ‘Vagevuur’ indicates that there is a transitional phase involved, a ritual of purification.   Like losing your sins in purgatory. Standing face to face with my installation, you are not sure if you are delivered yet, if you can go to heaven. An answer requires time.”

His previous participation in Façade put him to thinking after his installation at the Oostkerk became a target to vandalism: “First a sculpture was pushed over. After that, the mouths of the heads were sealed with two-component sealant. I left it that way, it made the sculptures better. Art in public space provokes reactions. With that thought in mind, I continued with my current participation. Then the pandemic came. As a result of Covid we became more aware of our own bodies and the space around it. How do you deal with the physicality of others? In Amsterdam, all of a sudden punching bags started popping up in the streets during the pandemic. I suppose that was organised by boxing schools, to give people the opportunity to take a blow at their frustrations about the Covid measures. That shocked me. In this way, physical aggression was stimulated. To me, that is diametrically opposed to the concept of ‘freedom from fear’.”

‘Vagevuur’ may be touched – hugged, stroked, hit.  Who dares?


Folkert de Jong Folkert de Jong (Egmond aan Zee, 1972) studied in Amsterdam at Hogeschool voor de Kunsten (University of the Arts) (1994-1996) and at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunst (National Academy of Fine Arts) (1998-2000).  He often makes large sculptures and installations in which he pays attention to the dark and absurd sides of existence. In 2003, he received the Prix de Rome. His work is included in many international collections, such as Saatchi in London, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and the James Cohan Gallery in New York. In the Netherlands, his work is represented by the Fons Welters gallery in Amsterdam.

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