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acrylics/wood/linen/mdf tricoya, ±140x30cm-140x55cm, 2021-2022

Seduction and confusion

A few years ago, Joop Vugs discovered the possibilities of graphic tools on his iPad, an experiment that led to surprising new work. Work that of course showed affinity with what he showed earlier, but what would not have been possible without that iPad. It would also profoundly influence his later work on paper. With his Masks and Wades he explores completely different, new paths.

Masks mark the border area between appearance and reality. Mr. Pastor with the straight face of his own piety. The doctor who puts on his doctor’s face just with his white coat. The manager with her masculine decisiveness. The politician with his media-trained word and gesture. They are essentially not that far away from the clowning in a circus arena. These are always templates of easily recognizable identities and they are only too happy to take us along in their story, their worldview. Predictable prototypes. Impersonal.

In Vugs’ masquerade no flat characters but layered personalities, powerful creatures which are certainly not unambiguous. Mask he calls them. He saws them out of mdf tricoya, paints them and sometimes enriches them with colored glass, pieces of linen, fragments of mirror, marble grains. Some wear a long line robe and then they are called Wade.

These Wades show a certain doubling of the color image. Vugs folds the linen in half and then pours his paint on it. Unfolded again, he explains them transversely, so that the paint runs just differently than you would expect. Joop Vugs likes to give chance a push, and then give it his own twist.

The Masks and Wades don’t just give in. What do they want with us?

One individual looks at us with an open mind, sometimes silly and roguish, as if he wants to seduce us. That is not entirely certain, because there is also slightly a doubt.

Another seems very dismayed, with those eyes jumping out of their sockets like spiral springs, as in cartoons. While they sometimes also show themselves timid at the same time, with such a prudish o-mouth.

Eerily unfathomable is the mask behind an extra fence. Eyes and facial features are hidden under a pasty white with a single yellow accent. It evokes memories of the face-caged Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Identity can be destroyed.

Destruction is also suggested in a long lined robe, on which, apart from a few blunts of blue, black waves predominate. The face is apparently not to be seen, overgrown as it is by crisscrossing black bars – a crown of thorns like on Good Friday.

At least as dark is the equally black line robe, with black mask and black eyes. It seems to look at us over the right shoulder. Is it startled and suspicious? Is it unreliable and aiming something evil? Is it unexpectedly comical and innocent because of that white nose as a roll of bandage mesh? Or quasi-innocuous? A confusing gentleman.

Joop Vugs’ Mask and Wades constantly puzzle us. At first glance sometimes joyful, but with a hint of life pain. Dark and menacing, but perhaps also endearing. Involuntarily, they evoke associations with ritual masks, as they are used in some African and Asian peoples. There they represent all kinds of spirits, gods and ancestors. They are messengers, helpers, troublemakers, protectors. Promote family happiness and harvest, trade and warfare. Either way, they control human destiny.

People seek connections with them in order to share good forces and defuse evil powers.

We may best keep Joop’s Masks and Wades as friends. They are worth it.

Kees Verbeek, April 2022