Jaco Sieberhagen’s work constitutes a consistent working method and iconographic output. He uses a special laser cut steel material with deft technical facility, often also incorporating Perspex and then paints over the steel, usually in black, but sometimes in blue. The effect is powerful: The forms are outlined in silhouette-like clarity almost existing as a kind of shadow world oscillating between sculpture and drawing.
Moreover, his oeuvre reveals strong thematic holism exploring over the years political sentiment; the construction of a so-called South African identity; the superficiality of popular culture and the metaphor of the staircase. What is most tantalising is what he calls his “poetic language”. This is indeed an apt metaphor. For his constructions and assemblages, these quasi-sculptural creations – flat and yet not flat – are what one might call surreal. Images within images, signs and symbols within figures that imply movement; the spectre of death always lurking as various subjects take the stage.
Artwork Top: The Locomotive
Artwork Above: Peace
His works at Eclectica Contemporary will be memorable. Sieberhagen’s use of imagery and their interesting juxtapositions are well thought through. Each element is not only well constructed but forms an energised unity. He uses images that range from an hour glass to trees, buildings and various archetypal subjects to convey a narrative. The stories that run through his works are told with an articulation that recalls a poetic sense of the weight, sound and imagery that only poetry can conjure. The excellence of the artist’s work is that he finds a visual analogue to their conceptual underpinning, which is testimony to decades of work and technical ingenuity.
The artist questions whether there is a notion of a South African identity and confronts history and popular culture in the process. Most pleasurable is what I can describe as his iterative design skill where images play within, between and above other forms so that his expertise with the medium is such that he is able to, in Paul Klee words “take a line for a walk.” He creates mental landscapes where it is unclear if his subjects are placed, misplaced or simply enter a dreamscape of sorts. This reflects the constant ebb and flow of culture and its discontents.
Artwork: Forrest Selfie
Sieberhagen’s work can be described as highly imaginative aligned with strong craft and formal understanding. It engages the viewer to free and liberate the mind from literal associations and soar into another world – his work has the effect of transporting the art lover to other dimensions. Having said that, the artist confronts everyday realities. In navigating these apparent opposites, there is the possibility that pain and joy exist at the same time. There is a sense in his work that it is brittle and vulnerable and yet at the same time it is strong and solid. Such dichotomies speak to the resilience of himself as an artist as well as the strength of his work to evoke beauty and mystery.
Jaco Sieberhagen has an impressive exhibition history which is a credit to his unique language and dedication to tell stories. His figures and imagery at once occupy space and yet at the same time are mere outlines or spaces in themselves, neither quite here nor there. They recall the history of reliefs, only set within a modern context and methods.
Eclectica Contemporary at 69 Burg Street, CT
Tel +27 21 422 4145