HELENE JACUBOWITZ –Essence and Form
Hélène Jacubowitz lived and worked in Antwerp. She started as a sculptress about twenty years ago, after she had followed lessons plastic expression in the “Atelier” of the Antwerp Academy by the Chilean artist and teacher, Ruperto Urzua. Hélène mostly creates in bronze, that ancient dark or gold-brown alloy of copper and tin, often with the addition of a little zinc. By now she knows the metier as no other. Her works are made with the lost-wax technique, but the artist can tell you more about the technical aspects in the gripping interview professor Marcel van Jole made with her and which is published in this monograph.
Almost all her works in bronze are as if they were shaped by light and evoke, at least as far as I am concerned, the irresistible inclination to touch them. Hélène Jacubowitz has developed a sculptural form that enables her to pass on not only a feeling of space but also of movement. Follow the lines, the form, the movement, the equilibrium. As a unity of movement as a complex of elegance it is very successful. Her sculptures are like sensitive poems, of which you cannot change one letter.
It is not simple to situate the oeuvre of a modern artist like Hélène Jacubowitz because statements like this often degenerate easily into apparent profundity or sheer nonsense. If her work must anyhow be explained, I think I may put it that she as an artist wants to create herself. The stress falls both on “creating” and on “objects”. She wants to have the feeling that she has made something that did not exist yet. Not just an imitation of a figure or of an animal, how skilful it may be, not just something decorative, how smartly it may have been invented, but something with a deeper meaning and a lasting value, something of which she has the feeling, it is something more than the poor objects of our earthly existence. Hence, the poetic titles she gives to her works revealing also her positive view on the world: “Lady Céleste”, “Promise”, “Beauty revealed” and I could continue this enumeration for ever.
She animates bronze. I believe that this intense feeling for the uniqueness of an object made by the magic of human hands is that what the sculptress Hélène Jacubowitz wants to evoke for us. She starts by not looking at her model. She starts by mounting a skeleton, then she moulds the clay, she has the sculpture cast in bronze, she polishes it and finally she sands it endlessly until the sculpture gets the required patina. By this slow process she wants to obtain a unique sculpture. Sensing she tries to find out what the bronze wants. When out of this process something like a human figure appears, that is wonderful. But even those shapes, in those birds, she wants to put something of beauty in, at the same time highlighting something of the mystery of the bronze. She doesn’t try to make a woman, a man, or a bird in bronze, but she wants to make a bronze awakening a human figure or a bird. She can be situated in the line Camille Claudel has outlined by being one of the first in putting the unity between form and contents centrally.
Hélène Jacubowitz gives life and movement to her figures, be it in an abstract form. Here she makes a link to the sculptors from the first half of the twentieth century like the Russian Alexander Archipenko, the Frenchman of Russian origin Ossip Zadkine, the French Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Hans Arp, the Italian futurist Umberto Boccioni, the British Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth and the Romanian Constantin Brancusi. All these artists, however different they may be, have tried to reconcile in a so-called abstracting style the accomplishments of the abstract and figurative style.
Most of all about the dualism between form and contents in Hélène Jacubowitz’s oeuvre the professors Marcel van Jole and Virgil Hammock (Canada) and the critic-painter Michel Gaudet have written beautiful texts, published in the art book that was edited about her work in 1998. Hélène Jacubowitz has now been working for about twenty years developing her own style of stereometrically simplified physical volumes. She makes chiefly female figures rising in spirals and in which she applies the achievements of the cubistic repertoire in a contemporary way. In recent years she conducts the interaction between volume and space clearly into the direction of expressive, lyric, dynamic, but also – and that is new – monumental sculptures.
Placing a statue and making it function in a public space – both inside and outside – is not an easy assignment. The confrontation with nature or architecture is merciless. In “Dorp Nr 2 Koningin Fabiola” in Deurne (Antwerp) the life-size, gracious sculpture “Spring Symphony” was revealed in the presence of Camille Paulus, Governor, the founder and inspirator Fons Dassen, Professor Marcel van Jole and art promoter Jan Stalmans. The sculpture with its concave and convex forms is a delight to see. It fits wonderfully into the inner space and converses with the functional architecture. Another version of this sculpture figures in the new wing of the airport in Zaventem, where under the management of the Professors Marcel van Jole and Pierre Klees, the then president of BIAC, a brilliant collection of, mainly Belgian art, was built up. Daily thousands of travellers can admire this sculpture full of hope and. expectancy on the level of boarding desk A33.
On an esplanade in the Drogenbos Techno Centre is on a giant socle the 4 meter high monumental sculpture “Fusion”. Here the abstracting forms go far in the direction of pure abstraction, yet human forms remain present. The work refers to a couple twined together. It has male and female components. It is also a reflection on the humanizing of technology. The artist has realised the doorknobs of this complex, a fine sample of the integration of art and architecture.
In Marche-en-Famenne the more than life-size sculpture “Alliance éternelle” (sitting 1.85 m) was beautifully set up by Mayor André Bouchat: discretely, facing a picturesque old wall, mother and child sitting on the edge. The wall surrounds the church Saint Remacle, a classified monument.
In “Diamond Plaza”, an office building in the Antwerp diamond area, the diamonds and jewels are confronted with the appropriate “Mountain of Light”, a sculpture capturing light like a diamond.
The business centre with 30 buildings in the Brabant-Walloon Mont Saint Guibert. It is here in the park that the research centre of the Walloon provinces of Belgium was inaugurated by the then Minister of Economy, Serge Kubla. Here Hélène Jacubowitz created a piece with four 4m high statues being a metaphor for technology at man’s service. Each of these sculptures has a different patina. One of them was finished with the sculptress’s classic patina. It was donated to the city by Axis Parc and situated near the roundabout of the N4. This sculpture was inaugurated by the Minister of Economy, Jean-Claude Marcourt, by Mayor Jean-François Breuer and the promoter Henry Fischgrunt. The three other statues are placed among 9 buildings.
Last but not least: a realisation that is very dear to the artist: the sculptures placed in the hall for chemotherapy of the daycentre of the Erasmus hospital in Brussels. The two sculptures give the space a warm feeling. One of both represents a tree of life. The tree of life is a biblical motive, but appears also in other ideologies. Here it is a symbol of the life force, a moral support to the patients and to the nursing staff.
Hélène Jacubowitz has become an eminent classical-modern sculptress in bronze. She created tall, abstract-figurative figures, extremely subtly modelled. Her mainly female figures radiate a quiet grace and sensitivity bringing life to the bronze. Hélène Jacubowitz’s oeuvre is as if it was an antidote against the ongoing mechanization of the human existence. In addition she has developed her own sculptural language of forms. Her studio is not an ivory tower, screened off from the industrial, urban and exciting modern world, but it is a place where one reflects on the artist’s role in this topicality. Hence the earlier described monumental projects in enterprises and in public areas.
That the whole process of sculpting in bronze takes time means that you can fathom into the depth and that you can avoid superficiality. Hélène Jacubowitz succeeds in it. She knows to use her technical abilities to penetrate into the human psyche through her sculptures. The recognition of her talent is consequently growing and as far as I am concerned rightfully so. She exhibited individually and in group in interesting galleries all over Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg, France, Italy, Sweden, Israel and the United States… About twenty of her works are in public ownership in Belgium, Holland, France, Denmark, Poland and Israel. She was awarded eight prizes in Belgium, France, England and Sweden.
I conclude. For more than two decades already Hélène Jacubowitz strives unwearyingly and painstakingly for an always purer and more perfect unity of forms in an immaculate finish. With her biomorphic sculptures she advances a vitalist movement against the excessive stress of the consciousness and the ratio. And isn’t this a beautiful humanistic message at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Ernest Van Buynder
2019 ADDENDUM: Helene took part in the 2019 Venice Biennale and she was invited to exhibit her work on permanent exhibition at the Mamila Centre in the centre of Jerusalem by the Mayor of Jerusalem. The artist now lives and works in her new home and studio in Israel.
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