The flipside of the lures (talking as much as writing)
Jean-Julien Ney’s work is concerned with sculpture and photography, not as specific and distinct disciplines, but rather as components of a hybrid installation practice, oriented towards the object. His action brings together the interest that photography holds towards the science of optics and the haptic nature of sculpture through his devices that are, according to the artist, “for the eye » and placed in relation to the viewer.
The structures that occupy the gallery space are halfway between rudimentary machines and presentation systems, whose function (s) are not clearly defined. Screens, paintings and reflectors: formal associations emerge, although at first glance the mechanisms are non-functional, or at least unsophisticated and without technology. The raw wood, bearing the marks of its craftsmanship, establishes on its own a more intimate or sensory relationship that clearly distinguishes the works from utilitarian referents. The colored plexiglass, which seems to replace functional parts, serves at the same time as screens and windows. These behave according to the direction of the viewer’s gaze, by blocking and allowing successive views of the space, its reflections and those of the objects. In this, the installation positions the viewers at the center of the action: their gaze frames, their movements determine what is veiled or unveiled, their journey helps to make sense of these machines that seem to be waiting for ‘an unknown use’. The uniqueness of each experience is in this sense inscribed in the work, reconciling the pure objectivity of vision and the subjectivity of the subject – the eye and the viewer, to quote the formula of Brian O’Doherty.
But it is not only the surfaces that fragment the perception of the work. The use of stenographic language, reproduced on certain areas of plexiglass, introduces a system of signs fallen into disuse and whose translation is not provided. Citing the photographic physics of Louis Gaudart and Maurice Albert, which deals with the physical effects of images and their reflections, these gestural transcriptions divert the original text (and its mise en abyme) by isolating fragments and truncating sentences, until other, sometimes absurd, meanings are suggested. Because of the effort that the reading of it requires, the stenography acts as a form of coding, or even jamming, which in turn hides (and eventually reveals) parts of the work. The primitive character of the drawings – done with fingers – echoes the roughly planed surface of the wood structures, pointing to what the artist refers to as “virtual prehistory”, the idea of optical research that implements basic strategies, in contrast with the omnipresence of the virtual in our contemporary technologies. By negating any interactivity or reactivity of the works, by presenting machines that do “nothing” or at least do not fulfill what one would expect at first sight, Ney actually offers a counter stance to contemporary media art that is focused on over-stimulating the senses, by offering a rare opportunity for visual acuity and for slowing down.
BrianO’Doherty (1999). InsidetheWhiteCube: TheIdeologyoftheGallerySpace, Expanded Edition. Berkeley : University of California Press
Jean-Julien Ney graduated from the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Lyon in 2014, and has participated in the “Génerator” program established by 40mcube (Rennes); he exhibited his work at galerie Thaddeus Ropac as part of Jeune Création 67e; at the Frac Limousin; at the Zoogalerie in Nantes as well as at galerie Hors les Murs in Marseille. He recently was part of the 64th edition of the Salon de Montrouge (Paris) and will participate in a collective exhibition at the Frac Grand Large – Hauts de France in September 2020 (Dunkerque).
Marie-Pier Bocquet is a Master’s candidate in Art History at UQAM and is currently the programming coordinator at Arprim, a centre for print art. Bouquet is an author, curator and cultural worker, and was a finalist in the esse arts + opinions’ Young Critics competition held in 2016. Since 2014, she has served on the editorial board of the drawing journal HB. She was co-curator of HB # 6 / HORS PAGE, presented at Centre d’art et de diffusion Clark in 2017, and curator of emerging printmakers for the exhibitionFaire Monde: A Look at Microcosmsthat Catherine Magnan and Andréanne Gagnon organized at Caravansérai artist’s center in 2014. Her published writing has appeared in esse arts + opinionsmagazine, as well as in the brochures of galerie Art Mûr, Centre d’art et de diffusion Clark and CIRCA art actuel.
Photo credits : Jean-Michael Seminaro