Ann Veronica Janssens

Born in 1956 in Folkestone (GB)
Lives and works in Brussels (BE)

Untitled (Blue Glitter)

Installation. Blue Glitters
Dimensions variables
Year of Purchase: 2017

Light emanates from the ground. As I approach it, iridescent hues bounce off of the color turquoise-blue. The blue falls into grey, sometimes yellow: everyone perceives it differently. There is no electricity at the source of the light, only a play of reflections produced by particles of glitter scattered on the floor. The shape they outline is strange. It’s as if a mound of powder had been placed there and then somehow blown away. A burst of air had swept its contours. Like ectoplasm, the blurred shape plays with its surroundings. With each movement I make, it changes and sends out radiating vibrations.

While everything moves, hardly anything is tangible: the particles elude our grasp, and the substance that activates them, namely light, is incorporeal. With light, the work of art becomes radically different: it is no longer an object to be hung on the wall, or warehoused, but something evanescent and constantly variable. To capture light was the chief task of the Renaissance painter: he endlessly played with chiaroscuro to bring out the beauty of draped fabric or a face. Light was like aura — a unique, je-ne-sais-quoi quality that lends a work of art the value of a talisman and stirs up unusual emotions. However, since everything has become reproducible, the uniqueness of the work has diminished. And with it, according to the philosopher and art critic Walter Benjamin, aura has been lost.

Like other artists, such as James Turell and Olafur Eliasson, the Belgian artist Ann Veronica Janssens has taken the quest for light literally. If representation has exhausted itself, the artist must go directly into presence—into light as such. Learning to look at light so as to recover its auratic value is not an easy task. Rather than concentrate solely on the object, one must take into account the direction of the dispersion of light: the surroundings as well as the movements of the visitor. Therefore, it’s all about the experience itself, its temporal and spatial quality. Situated, the work thus becomes singular: every movement produces change, not in the object but in our perception of it.

However, Janssens doesn’t stop there and plays with our perceptions in order to intensify our sensorial experience. For example, she hinders us from seeing clearly or misleads us as to what we’re looking at. Fog (RR Lyrae_, 2014), mist (Fantazy_, 2013), iridescent or reflective materials (CL2 Blue Shadow, 2015), and textures playing with indetermination are deployed alongside colors. Always using minimal gestures, Jenssen sculpts the environment and challenges our perceptual habits. This is how what was still is set in motion, what was certain is cast in doubt, what was ordinary becomes singular. Perhaps this is precisely it, aura, the moment when uncertainty tinges the atmosphere and tears the very fabric of reality.

Flora Katz