The ideas for “On the Surface of the Infinite” took as their starting point Graham Gussin’s Remote Viewer, an installation which had really caught my attention in 2002 at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. Last year, when I was thinking about a project exploring the connections between abstraction and the imaginary dimension, the memory of this work resurfaced with my discovery of Becky Beasley and Kathrin Sonntag’s works in their resonance with those of Hugo Pernet and Etienne Chambaud. Today the exhibition embraces highly different forms, intentionally presented in five separate spaces, so as to allow each artist to better engage in dialogue through a distinctly personal approach.
Whether suggestive of a theory about the geometry of the universe or simply of a sci-fi novel, the exhibition’s title immediately asserts the narrative and imaginative scope of the thirty works gathered together here. More than connections between the hereafter and the world of appearances, “On the Surface of the Infinite” proposes a possible artistic link between two contradictory terms: infinity, a spacetime historically infused with romanticism, and surface, which suggests the perceived coldness of Minimalism.
In a reassessment of a history of abstraction stretching from monochrome to the forms of Minimalist sculpture, the works in the exhibition certainly include “surfaces”, but their apparent opacity is in marked contrast with their evocative power. At once closed and open, they take on a kind of silence which renders them all the more mysterious. Like any work of art, they espouse a degree of hermeticism, which opens them up to a range of interpretations.
Becky Beasley’s works take the form of boxes or shelves whose content, replaced by a bottomless, black, reflective surface, remains to be imagined. In Graham Gussin’s work, monochrome becomes a screen, encouraging mental projection, while for Hugo Pernet it heralds a possible image to come after a conjectured end of painting. Etienne Chambaud creates tautologies that repeatedly reinterpret his own drafts and works, and Kathrin Sonntag builds images within images out of photographic archives and everyday objects whose abstract quality signals a kind of strangeness.
Their contemporary character means that these works deliberately bring the infinite to the surface, that is to say to form – to the level of appearances in the real world. However taking this surface as an integral element of the work in no way reduces its scope. An opaque border, the surface can also mutate into a screen, a mirror or a black hole. Made of such “loaded” abstractions, “what we see” opens out on to fresh perceptions1.
Translated by Gabriel Baldessin
1. Two contemporary readings of American 60s Minimalism have inspired my thinking about this exhibition: Georges Didi-Huberman’s indispensable Ce que nous voyons, ce qui nous regarde [What we see looks back at us] of 1992 – especially his interpretation of Tony Smith’s sculptures – but also art critic Jörg Heiser’s “Loaded: Opaque Surfaces in Modernity”, which puts into perspective Kubrick’s 2001 monolith and Minimalist sculpture, in Timewave Zero/A Psychedelic Reader, edited by Lionel Bovier & Mai-Thu Perret, accompanying the exhibition Timewave Zero/The Politics of Ecstasy, curated by Lionel Bovier & Jean-Michel Wicker in 2001 at the Grazer Kunstverein (See bibliography).
around the exhibition
An exhibition echoing “On the Surface of the Infinite” with works from the Ile-de-France FRAC collection by Carlos Cairoli, Jean-Marc Cerino, Livia Deville, Jérôme Dupin, Axel Hütte, Luis Marsans, Corinne Mercadier and Michel Sauer, at Théodore Monod Secondary School, Noisy-le-Sec (until May 11).
From 7:00 to 8:30
New: “A Time for Art” – art criticism workshop for all. In partnership with the Centre de Philosophie de l’Art, Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne University.
From 2:00 to 7:00 pm
Sunday Special during the Télérama weekend:
from 3:00 to 4:30 pm, workshop introduction to Contemporary Art.
From 7:00 to 8:30 pm
“A Time for Art”: art criticism workshop for all.
From 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Hugo Pernet invites the online poetry journal m y o p i e s:
Poetry readings/performances by Arno Calleja, Guillaume Fayard, Anne Kawala, Pierre Ménard, Hugo Pernet, Esther Salmona and Dorothée Volut
Poetry audio tour (during the exhibition: MP3s available on request at the reception).
From 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Discussion of the works, with La Galerie director Marianne Lanavère and curator/art critic Yoann Gourmel.