In some ways I suspect we always inhabit two landscapes: one is the visual terrain which we perceive by sight predominantly, gazing out onto the distance; and this is perhaps augmented by the sounds of insects, wind or fauna and even the unique scents offered by the South African bushveld, should that be the landscape we are contemplating. The other landscape we inhabit is physically the same but is apprehended physically, not through a static gaze. We walk, traverse, encounter, stumble, engage. These two landscapes may seem to be one, however, experience is not the same as looking. One is viscerally active; the other perhaps more passive and contemplative.
The abiding feature of Jaco Roux’s paintings of landscapes is his seemingly magical ability to traverse these two states and, in my view, it is what sets his painting apart from so many other ‘landscapists’. For his paintings are not indolent ‘gazings out’ on a passive terrain but rather deeply energetic and highly activated explorations into the terrain he paints. His canvases exude energy, vitality and brim over with the life that resides in the domains he portrays.
Pag Island, Croatia II’, 120 x 100 cm
The deep love and respect he has for the land he selects to convey through his artworks are plain to see for anyone who stands before his work: marks that do not describe as much as evoke; colours that allude to, but do not slavishly replicate the ineffably ungraspable beauty of the open veld. The ‘naturalistic portrayals’ (if one can call them that for, as I have just argued they are more evocations of invocations of both sight and experience) of the beautiful open spaces of nature are severely juxtaposed with fields of raw colour and complex painterly compositions that owe nothing to the visuality of ‘surveying the field’ in a visual sense. Rather the ‘abstract’ layering he creates is a reflection of an experiential engagement with the world he inhabits, visits and admires. The balance between these elements creates a dialogue between us, the landscape and indeed the artist himself. For me, Roux is an exceptionally generous artist: how easy it would be to hold the true essence of encountering, feeling, living and breathing in the spaces he paints to himself, merely showing us ‘the view’. His masterstroke is to make us feel alongside him, through the conceptual elements that each painting incorporates and thus, giving us the gift of sharing the experiential aspects of landscape alongside him. I can think of very few ‘landscapists’ who do the same.
Soutpansberg I, 40 x 40 cm
Levubu Rivier, 40 x 40 cm
I characterise this as generosity but maybe it is also a gift of imagination and the ability to sense beyond what the eyes alone can take in. For me, Roux is more a conceptualist – perhaps an ‘evocationalist’ – than a ‘landscapist’.
So these are the two landscapes that are obvious: one literal and figurative; the other abstract, experienced and felt. But there is another level at play here too, I believe. Jaco Roux divides his time between Croatia and Limpopo, South Africa, and the almost imperceptible intersection of these very different lands is also at play in his work, I would offer. Should the viewer need to think about the potential shifts that his dual geographical life implies in looking at his work, misses the point, so far as I am concerned. These artworks are not puzzles, they are something which I believe is impossible outside of the domain of painting: they are acts of direct communion with the viewer. There is no ‘answer’ or ‘solution’ to be had in gazing at Roux’s work. There is just feeling and experiencing and conceptually apprehending. And maybe, if you look long and hard enough, there is also the gift of sharing and experiencing the vision and spirit of a person who understands nature very, very well indeed. A gift: generous, fulsome, unambiguous that Roux proffers to anyone who desires to experience rather than merely look. – Andrew Lamprecht.