Jaap Scheeren was born in 1979,
on a cool winter day, in Nijmegen (Netherlands) and is currently living and working in Amsterdam. He decided to study photography after a failed adventure in chemistry. He did this at the St. Joost Academy in Breda (Netherlands) where he graduated in 2003.
In 2006, he published a book in collaboration with Anouk Kruithof called "The Black Hole", a project subsequently exhibited at FOAM in Amsterdam. This book offered him an international recognition including a honourable mentioning from Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles book award.
He won the 21st competition of the "Festival International de Mode et de Photography" in Hyères (France) 2006, leading the following year to a solo exhibition at Villa Noailles, showcasing a commission about the City of Hyères.The same year, he took part of the "Dutch Dare: Contemporary photography in the Netherlands" exhibition at the Australian Centre of Photography in Sydney. In November 2007, he published his second book "Oma Toos" about his incredibly funny grandmother.
In 2008 he did an artist residency in Bratislava, Slovakia, where he made the series "3 roses, 9 ravens, 12 months". This project also resulted in a publication with the same name. The year after he made a project together with designer Hans Gremmen called "Fake Flowers in Full Colour." Nowadays he needs to update himself a bit more regularly.
His work has been published in FOAM, Beaux-Arts magazine, Libération, LeMonde, DasMagasin, Kilimanjaro, PICNIC, IANN and Blast among many others.
(s) "The Day I took off my mask, I noticed my face was missing" Flatland gallery, NL / (g) "And suddenly everything made sense." Mapamundistas, Pamplona, ES / (g) "Wonderland-Hyeres" KAFANA, NL / (g) "Fake Flowers in Full Colour" FOAM, NL / (g) Selection of work. Prague Biennale, CZ / (g) "This spot might mean shit to you but is the world to me." Cobra Museum & Belvedere, NL / (g) "Fake Flowers in Full Colour" Kunstlerverein Malkasten Dusseldorf, DE / (g) BYOB, several cities, USA
(g) Photograpy in reverse, FOAM, NL / (s) "3 Roses, 9 Ravens, 12 Months" ShowOff Paris, FR / (g) "3 Roses, 9 Ravens, 12 Months" Quickscan, Nederlands Fotomuseum, NL
(s) "Dutch Seen: NY Re-Discovered", Museum of the City of New York, NY, USA / (g) "Pages" Photo Espana / (g) "3 Roses, 9 Ravens, 12 Months", De Balie, Amsterdam, NL / (g) "Het Zwarte Gat" F-stop festival, Leipzig, DE
(g) "CMYK-project" i.c.w. Hans Gremmen, Het Wilde Weten, Rotterdam / (g) "Love, design, delirium" Kunstraum Nieder-Osterreich, Vienna / (g) "(re)constructing reality" Paraplufabrieken, Nijmegen / (g) 6th Biennale of photography and visual arts: MAMAC, Liège, Belgium / (g) "Pages" photobook exhibition in Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Dorottya Gallery, Boedapest, Fotofruhling, Kassel
(g) Galerie Gana-Beaubourg, Paris / (s) Villa Noailles, Hyeres, France / (g) Erasmushuis, Jakarta, Indonesia, "Dutch Dare"
(g) Australian Center of Photography, Sydney, Australia at exhibition "Dutch Dare" / (g) L'espace bellevaux, Lausanne, Switserland at exhibition "De Amsterdam" / (g) Stedelijk Museum CS, foto drukwerk, Amsterdam (g) Villa Noailles, Hyères, France / (s) FOAM, Amsterdam, "The Black Hole " i.c.w. Anouk Kruithof / (g) ACF , Amsterdam
Jaap Scheeren is nuts.
That's perfectly fine, since we need people like that, and he's one of them. And luckily he's willing to help us out a little; he presents our surreptitious feelings and desires through the medium of free expression that we are all too happy to leave to him. He dreams up the wackiest, liveliest performances, or carefully staged photo-opportunities, and then steps back while events take their course - leaving us to rhapsodize over the result. It seems we are all secretly envious of his refreshing non-conformism and dynamic inventiveness.
Any attempt to produce a stylistic analysis of his work in order to deepen our understanding of it is therefore as undesirable as it is pointless. Scheeren is a free spirit, a truly witty artist with a keen sense of the absurd, who can shift from reality to theatricality without dropping a beat - as capricious and unpredictable as an unguided missile, he defies every visual convention. Still, he has managed to build up a cohesive oeuvre, in which numerous variables relate to each other and interact in surprising ways. This comes out forcefully in the exhibition The day I took off my mask, I noticed my face was missing.
So we should not seek to define the work of someone like Jaap Scheeren. All we can do, perhaps, is to try to clarify the deeper foundations and motives underlying his methods. This would certainly be the right place to do so. Take the title, for instance. The maker unmasks himself, literally and figuratively, in an ultimate gesture of self-irony. Although that self-irony is not always present, and it is certainly not usually laid on so thickly, it certainly links up seamlessly with his absurdist and tragic-comic premises. In a sense, the artist makes himself vulnerable by acknowledging that nothing human is alien to him, and that he has forgotten to develop his own face behind his protective armor - the ultimate consequence of which is an identity crisis. We subsequently see this tragicomic leitmotiv recur in his work, morphing freely into guises ranging from a palm tree trying to get back into the earth to a pigeon longing to become a parrot. In this way he entices his viewers to sojourn briefly in his figures' colorful inner worlds. For he knows precisely how to appeal to universal human sentiments so expressively that most viewers can easily identify with them. So it turns out that Jaap Scheeren is not nuts at all; he knows exactly what he's doing. At most, we might call him an eccentric, but one in whom everything flows in a completely natural way - without any affectation and straight from the heart.
A curiously apt link suggests itself between the suggestiveness of the title The day I took off my mask, I noticed my face was missing and the character of the works. Let's accept, for a moment, that Scheeren may be called an "absurdist" artist in the philosophical sense. Absurdism is a school of thought stating that humanity's efforts to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd) because the sheer amount of information, including the vast unknown, makes certainty impossible. In fact absurdism is sometimes seen as an art form in which irrationality and incongruity are elevated to guiding principles. These are certainly the kind of principles that have helped to determine the varied ways in which Scheeren attacks his existential despair in evocative parables such as The Sun, The Moon and the Earth discussing their next move. The expressiveness of this work is couched especially in the "next move," whereby an absurd premise derives added significance from the implication that it has happened before.
By placing all his work under the umbrella heading of a title full of self-irony, Scheeren seems to have completed the circle: absurdism and self-irony overlap, each enhancing the other's effect. Now, considering the images that Scherer has put before us, you could say that he visualizes what we might want to call, in the widest sense - for the want of a better term - "human inadequacy." And that is something that can never be classified or analyzed, only made tangible.
Essay by Frank van der Stok
"Fake Flowers in Full Colour" icw Hans Gremmen, 2009/2010
"3 roses, 9 ravens, 12 months", Slovak fairytales, Jaap&Hans publishers, 2008
"Gassboggreidn" icw H. Bloch & B. Aars, 2009
"Oma Toos" project, Jaap&Hans publishers, 2007
"The Black Hole" project together with Anouk Kruithof, episode publishers, 2006