François Jacob, who was born in Brussels in 1976, places his protagonists, which are often equipped with costumes and props, in a predominantly dark pictorial space, the background appearing inexistent or invisible. This confining lack of any spatial depth evokes a prevailing mood of melancholy. The rather unspectacular scene is performed by just one or two figures and carried out in the foreground, thus mimicking a stage action that is enhanced by a dramatic baroque lighting, emphasizing the division between an overwhelming brightness and a brooding duskiness. The action in question, however, seems suspended just like a movie still that has been removed from its narrative context and now appears replete with suspense and suggestive of a plot that remains a secret to the viewer.
Often the beam of a single spotlight starkly illuminates the characters. Jacob’s manipulative use of effects of light and shadow seems to stem from an intense revelatory motivation, in which the representation and overt display of subjects in painting and art is questioned as well. Not only is the boundary between public and private space neutralised in this particular depiction, but the viewer also becomes engaged in a play with roles, forcing him to reflect on his own part as a spectator or even voyeur. Jacob’s staging literally “brings something to light”: it reveals a different reality, introducing parallel worlds and providing a glance into the secret realms of the soul. In concentrating on situations related to disguising, camouflaging, the artist demonstrates the fundamental schism between true self and an assumed, artificial persona. The conflict between outer appearance and inner reality in particular serves to emphasize the ambiguity to which mankind acquiesces.
As such, all of François Jacob´s subjects embody a primordial estrangement, articulated through an introverted, misplaced demeanor. Seeming to hide behind a fictitious façade and often ridiculously distorted, they parade in front of the spectator like a line-up of court characters from a Diego Velázquez painting, consisting of sorrowful dwarves, slaves and jesters. François Jacob’s powerful works reflect the world as a stage, the masquerade of human being and they blatantly expose the ambiguity of an existence that manifests itself in “many faces”.