Anne Marie Jugnet

Valentina Moncada

A ray of light was projected from the interior of the gallery towards the exterior. Whoever stopped at the entrance, at the threshold that divided the urban space from the gallery space, soon became aware that the ray consisted of luminous writing projecting the following words on the bodies of those entering: “da sempre qua” (here, from time immemorial). It was like an introduction to the poetic world of Anne Marie Jugnet, one of the most interesting young artists in France.

Upon entering the gallery, the space first appeared completely hare. The long walls were almost blank; finally, an artist who isn’t afraid of empty space, indeed who works explicitly with emptiness. But this was a particular type of emptiness, one that affirmed the necessity for subjective, personal, spiritual growth. “Less is more,” Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said; he also said that “God is in the details.” In the end, Jugnet’s work can be summarized conceptually and spiritually in these two sentences. One of the long walls of the gallery held only a small red-neon piece, which spelled out “y être” (being there, or simply “being”), existing in a place, at a point, in a precise location of infinite space. It is a locution that brings to mind the simple yet profound title that Barnett Newman gave to a series of late sculptures: “Here,” 1950–66. For Jugnet, “being” signifies existing, “poetically inhabiting” a precise spot of infinite space. Only by locating ourselves within a limited point of this space can we perceive its infinity. Only by becoming aware of the finite nature of the world of things can we evoke its infinite dimension.

The artist attempts to make viewers aware of both their physical bodies, crossed by a myriad of varying sensations, and the invisible essence that accompanies the body, not like a shadow, but like a light that illuminates it from within. On the front wall, two works on paper, executed exclusively in black and white, were placed very close together so that they seemed surrounded by empty space. On the first, black typography appeared against a white background: “c’est tout” (that’s all); the other simply depicted a black sheet of paper with a sentence.

Behind Jugnet’s work, one still senses a certain power, an internal tension, a capacity to provoke—beyond cultural habits—a genuine mental and existential experience. This intensity was also transmitted by the depth of the mental and psychological references that Jugnet’s “messages” communicated. The phrases clearly indicate a semantic desire for reduction, silence, subtraction, abstention, but also make us think of a sort of operation of the ego that the artist would like to stimulate in the viewer, a kind of meditation on one’s own simple existence.

Another work in the show was deliberately exhibited in potential form only. This was a container that held 1,138 semi-transparent sheets upon which 482 words were written; the piece was entitled Fragment, 1991. If the work had been exhibited in its entirety, it would have required a wall 250 meters long. Once again, Jugnet was working with the idea of absence, of subtraction. But at the same time, it was as if she were placing a burden on the viewer: the representation of oneself in one’s own consciousness, using one’s own fantastic sensibility to imagine the complete passage—mental, physical, and also spiritual—the fully realized work would entail.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.