Jaco van Schalkwyk

Jaco van Schalkwyk was born in 1981 in Benoni, South Africa. van Schalkwyk uses a photorealist technique in his paintings. He has an interest and preoccupation with illusionism constantly attempting to capture reality in paint, to achieve perfection upon the surface of the canvas, as well as to master the representation of space and light in painterly form. van Schalkwyk’s painterly hyper-realism points to an investigation which traverses beyond illusionism. His technique begins to question the idea of representation in and of itself.

Currently he is exploring his practice through various media – painting, sculpture, installation, assemblage and film. van Schalkwyk considers questions of representation both in his works and in the everyday ways we construct and mediate realities around ourselves, our environment and our encounters with the Other.

In his more recent shows van Schalkwyk plays on the concept of the cabinet of curiosities. The cabinet of curiosities or Wunderkammer as it emerged in Renaissance Europe, a predecessor of our modern practices of collecting and cataloguing, aimed to create a microcosm of the world in its presentation of a vast array of collected objects and specimens from foreign cultures and locales. van Schalkwyk aims to recreate and restage this practice in order to begin to question concepts of of voyeurism, power, fetishization and objectification implied within it – through the lens of our contemporary modes of engagement with the other and the exotic. van Schalkwyk’s begins to explore the smart phone as a modern day, digital cabinet of curiosities. Paying specific attention to the role smart phones have come to play in tourism and encounters with the “exotic”, he explores the way these devices function as personal archives and representational tools, in the way they allow us to codify, collect and categorize experience. The glass screen of the smart phone recalls the paradoxical allure of museum cases and vitrines, simultaneously revealing and preserving the captured experience while rendering it inaccessible. He continued his exploration with these concepts in a recent exhibition with Allen Laing and Heidi Fourie at Gallery 2 titled Machine in the Garden.

Jaco van Schalkwyk was a finalist in the 2011 Absa L’Atelier Award and in 2013 won a Merit Award in this prestigious national competition. Residency awards include the New York Students League (2008), Kunst: Raum, Sylt Quelle, Germany (2014) and Goethe Institut, Yangon/Myanmar, Indonesia (2017) in collaboration with the Sylt Foundation. 

Image: Courtesy of artist – Painting from exhibition

Capturing the figure and face, however basic it may be is one of the most commonly produced forms of art because of its prevalent nature in society, everywhere you look there are people and a bombardment of Visual imagery related to portraits.
Being fully aware of this, artist Jaco van Schalkwyk wanted to create a body of work for the above mentioned group exhibition that explores on a deeper level the intimate lives of his subjects and at the same time his personal relationship with them.
The people in this group of Portrait paintings all hold a special place in Van Schalkwyk’s life journey, whether it is his late mother, mentors or friends, the artist endeavoured to capture these private relationships and also made use of installation, found objects and still life paintings to further embroid on the existence, identity and characteristics of his subjects.