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Life Beside Death: Art by Jan Van Oost

A sculpture of a woman in black lying on the floorBlack Widow, plaster, textile and hair

Jan Van Oost is an artist and sculptor originally from Belgium. Van Oost’s works explore life beside death. Many of the artist’s works are monochromatic, focusing on form and materials and using the shape of the human body as a means of exploration.


A cast silver sculpture of a hand with its fingers in a skullSalome, cast silver

I enjoy the somewhat ghostly appearance of Van Oost’s sculptures, particularly his frequent use of skulls as a motif. His sculptures are well-rendered, with realistic human forms portrayed in a variety of materials, hands interacting with skulls or otherwise normal figures with skulls for heads. Van Oost’s use of mirrors seems to conspicuously remind the viewer of his or her own existence, and the inevitability of death therein.


Another prominent motif in Van Oost’s works are strange blackened human figures that appear hyper-realistic, if quite surreal, particularly contrasted against the white space of a gallery. Sometimes these figures crouch in corners, sometimes they stand in the center of a room, yet they almost always have sheets of long, dark hair obscuring any facial features. The uncanny, almost-human look of them reminds me of Andra Ursuta’s humanoid monoliths. 


an installation of a black head in between two mirrorsGestalt

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. She is a recent graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where she studied Critical and Cultural Practices. She is passionate about talking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In her studio practice she is a painter, but she considers herself an art writer and educator foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises

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