Ann Veronica Janssens, CL9 Pink Shadow, 2015–16, annealed glass, PVC filter CL9, 82 5/8 × 41 3/8 × 6".

Ann Veronica Janssens, CL9 Pink Shadow, 2015–16, annealed glass, PVC filter CL9, 82 5/8 × 41 3/8 × 6".

Ann Veronica Janssens

Ann Veronica Janssens, CL9 Pink Shadow, 2015–16, annealed glass, PVC filter CL9, 82 5/8 × 41 3/8 × 6".

Employing a range of materials that are carefully chosen to investigate the cognitive processes tied to the sensory experience of reality, Ann Veronica Janssens creates installations that are radically minimal yet exuberantly expressive. The British artist, who lives and works in Brussels, approaches her practice with an almost scientific rigor. Her work draws heavily on physics in its consideration of the properties and variances of matter. Janssens’s sculptures in particular foreground various qualities of light: refraction, reflection, equilibrium, undulation, perspective, luster, transparency, lightness, and fluidity. The research driving her practice parallels that of artists inspired by the experimental investigations of the California Light and Space group, who focus on sensory phenomena and on interactive dynamics with the viewer (among them Olafur Eliasson, Leo Villareal, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Spencer Finch). Janssens’s aesthetic strategy, moreover, concentrates on the immaterial characteristics of light, which she transforms into tactile, almost tangible visual experiences. In this sense her works can be considered actual devices, intended to create experiences of visual instability based on the variability of perception.

For her fourth show at Alfonso Artiaco’s Naples gallery, Janssens created a series of works that probe their material substrates. The artist’s skillful use of the space allowed the play of light and color to further activate the works’ reflective surfaces. In the glitter sculptures on view (Untitled [pink glitter], 2016; Untitled [blue glitter], 2015; and Untitled [white glitter], 2016), the work is reduced to its extreme essentials—single-pigment glitter hurled onto the floor in an apparently random fashion, creating evanescent puddles that become a residual trace of the artist’s gestural activity. That gesture tends to turn the material into something perceived as fluid, with light acting as a disturbing element. In contrast, Candy Sculpture 812/3 608-805, 2015, expresses a completely different essentiality. Instead of entropically expanding and drifting as various forces activate it, this work, whose striated colors bring to mind a piece of candy, features three superimposed blocks of colored glass compressed into a cube.

The same material reappears in a set of works whose delicate vertical panels rest against the wall, their milled surfaces taking on different colors depending on whether they are illuminated by natural or artificial light. This effect is achieved by the insertion, inside the panels, of dichroic filters that make the surfaces shimmer seductively with delicate chromatic variations that, as in the glitter series, are explicated in the titles (CL9GN35 Sunset Bright Green, 2016; CL2 Blue Shadow, 2015–16; and CL9 Pink Shadow, 2015–16). Untitled (Steel Bar Crossing the Wall), 2016, with, again, a self-explanatory title, is nothing but a steel bar that traverses a dividing wall of the gallery, simultaneously inhabiting two rooms. This piece revives a sensibility that was present in Janssens’s work in the late ’80s, for which she created spatial extensions of preexisting architecture that invited the viewer to confront the corporality of these spaces, with the goal of rendering mutable the perception of the material or the surrounding architecture. The gallery was thus occupied by heterogeneous works that created a kaleidoscope of colors and lights. These works, whose symbolic references were intriguingly suggestive, were also profoundly stimulating to the eye. The diversity of the materials and their possible variations helped the viewer not to capture the elusive but rather to experience the multiple forms that it could assume, in an attempt to discover the irreducibly subjective truth of the work.

Eugenio Viola

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.