Under the name Judas Companion, artist Jasmin Reif draws upon the detritus of her life to craft beautiful yet disquieting costumes that both disguise and reveal who she really is
Photography by Judas Companion. Text by Ross Aston
Some of us wear a figurative mask every day of our lives to hide our true emotions – but some, like the German-born artist Jasmin Reif, wear a literal mask made out of her ex-boyfriend’s boots. “I feel we don’t pay enough attention to things that exist in each of us,” she says. “Society forces us to suppress a lot of our feelings. I try to connect to my subconscious mind and express things that are inside me that are hard to describe, those fragmented and illogical thoughts.”
Under the moniker Judas Companion, Reif works with recycled items and objets trouvés to hand-craft sometimes unsettling but technically and visually compelling masks and costumes, which she then photographs herself wearing. “I use any sort of material that people donate to me,” she explains, while knitting together plastic bags collected from the floor of the east London-based Sarabande studio where she works. “What surrounds you naturally sinks into your consciousness, and you process it without really understanding the impact that it’s had upon you. When my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I was of course affected by it; I ended up using his things as a medium for my work, including a pair of old cowboy boots.”
Balaclava-like in form, her creations bring to mind the uniform of the protest group Pussy Riot. She acknowledges the political associations: “What I do is a personal exploration and though I use a different formal language when listening to my subconscious, it’s still directed by outside influences.” She gestures to an EU flag emblazoned on a wearable sculpture which she made in response to the Brexit referendum.
Reif is often naked in her self-portraits; the images reveal everything while simultaneously, through the covering of her face, reducing her to an expressionless character. Shrouding herself in her textiles is a process of renewal, a means of exploring the inner workings of her identity. “I create masks to metamorphose and outwardly reflect a different part of my inner self as a shield,” she says. While there may be common threads between her art and design, they are tightly knotted with conflict. “I might make wearable garments, but it’s not fashion. The clothing industry is about selling perfection. I aim to create things which exist on the border of beauty and absolute silliness,” she says. “The fashion industry doesn’t make this world a better place, it enforces an irrationally fast and disposable consumer attitude and is a reflection of our society as one that demands shine and glamour.
“When I create pieces from garbage off the floor, I see them as precious leftovers dropped by headless people who are rushing through the world, not noticing themselves.” It’s a message that we can all learn from: in putting on masks, Reif asks us to risk taking off our own personal ones, even just a little bit, and to take a look at what’s underneath.