Southern Guild is pleased to present Enfold, a solo exhibition of felt sculpture and charcoal drawings by mixed-media artist Christine Jacobs. This new body of work, featuring the artist’s most substantial sculpture series to date, arises from a richly intuitive interaction with the landscape surrounding her family farm in Southern Africa’s Free State province.
The Jacobs’ farm has been in the artist’s family for six generations. Located in Trompsburg in the Xhariep District, the farm produces Merino fine wool that is scoured, spun and plied after being sheared from the land’s resident sheep. The abundant landscape – and the symbiotic interchange between the land, its inhabitants and the Jacobs family – is at the conceptual root of the works in Enfold. Energetically tied to the nostalgic terrain of her childhood, Jacobs’ practice responds to the symbolic significance of this environment, the physical and non-physical traces of change and exchange born of generations of her family’s reciprocal relationship with the farmland.
The artist’s sculptural forms have been made using Merino wool sourced from the farm. Using the traditional process of felting, individual fibres of sheep’s wool are matted together by hand to craft a pliant, insulating fabric that is naturally moisture-resistant. Their low-slung, twisting shapes mimic the expansive, undulating terrain of the Xhariep landscape. Each sculpture is draped in a pale outer shell of felted wool, their naturally-dyed underbellies echoing the reddened, mineral-laden earth of the farmland. Black wool has been needle-felted into fine linear markings on the underside of the sculptures. The symbolism of these lines hold multitudes; they evoke the borders of demarcated territories, the shifting trails of local herds, the man-made roads and tracks upon the earth.
The sculptures demanded a deeply somatic engagement from Jacobs, as she wrestled with, manipulated, climbed and crawled into their forms during construction. Each of these Scapes have been moulded to the artist’s own body, their hollows, soft crevices and coves offering intimate experiences of shelter for the figure to engage with. Though each form is a singular entity, the varied works are able to be configured and assembled into intuitive constellations.
The use of charcoal in the artist’s large-scale drawings is an allegorical choice of material. In 2021, a fire tore through the Jacobs’ farm reducing swathes of life-giving grassland to deadened ash. Made through prolonged exposure to heat, charcoal retains the regenerative potential energy to create. The exhibition’s two-dimensional works – the largest standing at 3 meters wide – are a reflexive exploration of line and gesture. Their impressions, marks and erasures reflect the tension between the constructed and organic, the seen and unseen. The abstracted drawings can be read as densely imagined topographies. Some markings appear to trace the loose unfolding of a river or the texture of hoof-trodden earth; some of the more intrusive incisions echo the parameter of a wall or the engineered curvature of a road.
The body of work includes Jacobs’ first exploration in photography. The artist dug a circular hollow into the land, forming the concave impression to the shape of her own bare body. Photographed with a drone, Jacobs’ figure is captured coiled within the ground amid an expanse of encompassing earth.
Enfold manifests a myriad of developments in Jacobs’ practice, expanding on the artist’s commitment to refined materiality, and the curious exploration of our interior and exterior worlds.