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Jesper Dalgaard

The Apple-pickers, 2005

Drawing | Watercolor on paper
56 x 44 cm
Jesper Dalgaard uses drawing, film and sculpture to create alternative worlds, imaginary scenes that project the hopes and uncertainty of life. His work is quirky and humorous, yet it always presents us with a nucleus of truth, inviting us to reflect upon the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour.Dalgaard’s work in the collection includes nine small-format watercolours on paper, and an animated film, all from 2005. The work shares a similar technique, with awkwardly rendered dark figures placed over landscapes or interiors washed with soft colour tones. Both the drawings and film feature a naive style that is typical of Dalgaard’s work, where people, objects or trees are drawn in a deliberately “amateurish” style reminiscent of underground comic and illustration.The five-minute animated film Helen Vejen runt og tilbage igen (All the Way Round and Back Again) depicts the rise and fall of an aspiring artist, as he comes through creative angst and insecurity into fame and riches, only to slip back again into personal oblivion. While set in some distant future reality, with robots serving drinks at a gallery opening and the characters driving flying cars, the film reflects on contemporary issues: professional success, personal ego, artistic integrity, and the ability to manage in the world. Dalgaard portrays humans as black stick figures, as a young child might, with few features to distinguish one individual from the next.

Before the contemporary era naive illustration was the domain of amateur artists who lacked the representational skills of professional painters. This changed with the emergence of pop art, which drew inspiration from subject matter and drawing styles from the world of comics and popular illustration. Through comics, and especially the underground scene, which shunned any pretence of quality draughtsmanship, naive figurative representation made its way into the discourse of contemporary art. This also meant for new forms of content, as artists used naive illustration to convey off-beat, unusual and even radical ideas about society.

Dalgaard’s small watercolours express this vividly. A troubling image of a woman lying on a table, The Nooks and Corners of One’s Dreams, has speech balloons projecting her oddest imaginations, some absurdly futuristic. In another one citing comic language, Friends on the Surface, two figures meet at a party over drinks, and the speech balloons around them express everything they imagine about their relationship, all in tiny drawings.  In The Kiss two black stick figures with blobs for heads “kiss” over a blue horizon, while in the complementary The Kiss, Jealousy, the gesture is repeated over a red backdrop, while a smaller “child” figure tugs at them, annoyed at being left out.

This is the way Dalgaard’s art works. His representational values are disarmingly simple, yet through them he digs deeply into how people tick. He will even comment on our condition in images without human presence, as with the watercolours of trees lining a path or marking out geometries. With these watercolours Dalgaard evokes lonely landscapes, longing anxiously to be occupied by a willing and inquisitive subject.

Jeffrey Swartz


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