Jackie Sleper
Press Reviews

Edward Rubin about "SHADOW OF LIFE"

Dutch born artist Jackie Sleper has been exhibiting her work both nationally and internationally to great acclaim for the past fifteen years. Most recently her work was presented at the Austrian Biennale, OPEN, the International Sculpture and Installation Exhibition in Venice, and the Florence Biennale in 2007 where she was awarded First Prize for sculpture and installation.

Long interested in world events and foreign cultures, Sleper has been doing artistic, and so-called anthropological explorations by book and travel in many countries. Five years ago she travelled to China and created a body of work based on her experiences in that country. Three years later Sleper created another body of work based on her visits to Mexico. First previewed in Utrecht under the title of Dulce y Amargo (Bittersweet), these beautifully crafted sculptures and painted photographs were then shipped to Mexico where for the past two years they have been travelling to museums throughout the country.

Sleper, who just returned from India and will be making several more visits to that country, is currently working on a series that will explore the life of the people of India. This new body of work titled Soil, under the guiding hand of prominent New Delhi curator Sushma Bahl, will be exhibited at various museums and art centers throughout India in the year 2011.

In Shadow of Life, her current exhibition, the artist generously turns both hand and eye towards the intimate. Here we are exposed to the journey of her heart and mind. In this excursion she is both wanting, and no doubt needing, to share all the wonders of life as she has experienced it. Though the revelatory nature of this exhibition is highly personal - one could call it autobiographical - the artist's thoughts, feelings and experiences, all beautifully embedded in her work, are universal in nature. In one way or another, every work reflects the very paths that mankind is asked to think about, if not follow. In this manner, like the masters of old, each of Sleper's works talk to us directly.

Sleper's magical style of assembling her sculptures, which she rightly refers to as objects, is highly original, as well unrivalled. No artist that I know of, since the Faberge gave us the world in his amazing eggs, has given us works as intricately crafted and as beautiful bejewelled as Sleper's one of a kind creations. Each sculptured object - her own world within an egg - is composed of many elements. Here we see sparkling jewels, porcelain flowers, medallions, tiny sculptures of babies, large lions, small animals, and insects. Some are hand crafted, others are found, some are bought, and still others are commissioned from artists and artisans from around the world. Once gathered Sleper builds these stunning assemblages, many of which resemble religious reliquaries. Like her painted photos, each tells an intimate, often personal story. More often than not a moral lesson, one that shows the way to health and happiness is attached. While the viewer might not know the exact details of each and every story being told - many sculptures like the elegantly crafted Follow Me, where a black Madonna rests on top of praying nuns who in turn are resting on a great many sheep, are obvious in its intensions - if one adds up all of the many elements (each one being a clue), the story being told, if one cares to examine, is the story of our own lives.

Sleper's work, lightly touches on violence and bad doings, most noticeably in Daniel in the Lions Den, and Isaac and the Lamb, stories taken from the bible, in actuality the artist, continually pointing us in the direction of peace, love and harmony, is an diehard optimist. Her use of children, animals, and even butterflies who for the artist represent our souls, serve to highlight these possibilities. She is telling us that the harmony that animals and children are born with still resides within ourselves. The challenge is to let it shine through. Perhaps the photo painting that best represents the artists view of life is Astonishment. Here we see a dog, with eyes wide open, looking at the world as if the first time. Both the artist and her dog are telling us that every new day is a blessing bestowed. Above all she is saying, that life, so often taken for granted, is a fragile gift and must be handled with loving care.

Edward Rubin