Not so far from us
For the exhibition Not so far from us, MLF | Marie-Laure Fleisch is pleased to present work by Bettina Samson, Jennifer Tee, and Joani Tremblay. These three practices may look distanced from one another, but they all relate by their capacity to enlighten specific archetypes: those of the esoteric world. Inspired by ancestral rites, ceremonies, or even utopias from the New Age culture, the artists attest to the fact that art does not only allow us to address contemporary issues, but also to open doors to the world of the intangible.
Although our society may be the perfect representation of scientific and technological advancement, it remains imbued with spiritualism. The cartesian spirit of our time does not escape from our collective unconscious and the beliefs we inherited from it. But the artists are not trying to simply update an esoteric culture: they investigate our folklore in order to trouble our perception of reality. Things are not what they appear to be at first glance. The altered use of mystic symbols that surround us may open the path for the search of a new perspective on history.
Bettina Samson’s series of ceramics, Shakers, refers to the so called religious community which persisted until the 20st century. Highly extreme in their conception of utopia, members used to associate their daily tasks to a sacred dimension. During the "Era of Manifestations" (around 1843), they aimed to reach collective trance during ceremonies with the help of convulsive dances, which gave them their denomination. Movements we can observe in the sculptures remind those of dancing bodies, trying to escape consciousness in order to discover new visions. The strange forms of the sculptures, oscillating between coarse and unrestrained gesture, also become a tribute to the "gift drawings" sketched in their quest for divine revelation. The plinths are an appropriation of the Shakers as well. Indeed, their convictions made them develop their own style of furniture which, in recent years, attracted the attention of designers who see it as a prefiguration of current minimalism. Samson used their assembly technique, respecting their desire of simplicity and paying special attention to its utilitarian function.
It would be challenging to contest the influence of spiritualism on Jennifer Tee’s creations. The ceramics Tao Magic address the notion of spiritual balance implied by the cosmological philosophy (Tao meaning “the way”). This pursuit of the Middle Way is found in most of Tee’s artworks: an invisible line between two worlds. The artist has deep knowledge about iconic figures of occultism who were masters of cultural appropriation. But while these mentors, soon followed by our contemporary society, are encouraging individualism, Tee’s multicultural origins brought her to conceive art as a space without borders, where concept help the emergence of a superior realm through collective language. From then on, patterns emerging from her collages of dried tulip petals from the Netherlands can remind us of psychedelic geometries as much as Indonesian ceremonial textiles (Tampan). The artist renew what was considered as a holy force to bound people together but also presents printed versions of her creations, reminding us of the ambiguity of cultural appropriation and its manipulations.
Joani Tremblay examines our perception of places, architectures, and its possible representations, through the creation of fictional landscapes. In 2018, she went to Arcosanti, Arizona, where a utopian city was created in the 70’s. This colony aimed to experiment a system combining architecture and ecology, with ascent of the human consciousness as ultimate purpose. Utopias are mostly mental spaces, made from strong convictions but also unachievable fantasies. This is probably what fascinated the artist who has a strong interest in our memory and its ability to modify the accuracy of what we consider to be real. This would partly explain why she works on the constructed idea of a place, by digitally assembling images from an infinity of sources (from social media to postcards), until she transfigures it into a painting. Although they cannot locate it, Tremblay’s landscapes looks familiar to the viewers. What we observe in the series Quaderno is not the city she has visited, but what she felt about the communal identity, its past and hopes for the future.