PAST: Jugnet + Clairet Midnight Blue _ A Survey
Our imaginary is principally nourished by the landscapes and the culture of the American southwest.
Our work, beyond an autobiographical dimension, explores and develops that which escapes the ordinary attention of the surrounding world and comes back to an intimate art history.
All that is imposed by sudden emergence, strangeness, dazzlement.
We begin with events and objects encountered during trips that develop our series: deserts, dead ends, the rarity of information, discrete units, minor changes, details, intervals, in-betweens constitute the universe of our work.
Our point of view is peripheral, we are interested in the margins, the background, the depths.
Our work is about images, memory, light and screens, from the TV Paintings to the Cue Marks Series, not to mention the Sunset Series and the Los Alamos Still Life paintings. Our work also involves specific protocols and processes reflecting certain modes of production and representation of the image. Our aim is not to create new forms but to create the conditions of their emergence.
Everything has been said,
unless the words change meaning,
and meanings change words.
This Side Down
Our work on language has updated our system of thought and outlined our methodology.
Ligne de partage du ciel (Dividing Line of the Sky) Series
We consider these paintings as works of language.
We had in mind La ligne de partage des eaux (The Dividing Line of the Water), a sign we saw in France on a Burgundy freeway, indicating the junction of two canals, one linked to the Atlantic ocean and the other to the Mediterranean Sea.
In these paintings we used two slightly different kind of blue (cyan and ultramarine with a lot of matte medium), separated by a fuzzy unpainted line close to the middle of the iconic field.
Square Roots Series
Word plays and image plays, this series enters into the category of language works - language, mathematical symbols and image become conflated.
They are portraits of plants and their roots backlit against a background of a color gradient evoking the sky, the light of the American southwest.
These paintings are inspired by a series of drawings that we executed in a cursory manner. The enlarged figures are encircled by a white net like medieval drop caps, initiating the link between language and painting.
The representation of vegetation with roots refers to the Indian frescos in the Acoma church in New Mexico (this church was photographed by Aby Warburg in 1896).
Works after the superstring theory in quantum physics.
(cf. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, By Brian Greene, ed. w.w. Norton & Compagny, 1999).
The colors used to achieve the gradient in the 'Superstrings' paints are: Cerulean Blue Deep - Titanium White - Mars Black. Cerulean blue used to be called midnight blue.
Among the ancients, the color of the night was not black but blue. The Latins used the adjective 'ceruleus’ to designate the nocturnal color of the sky, both blue and black.
The gradient backgrounds of the 'Superstrings' in panoramic format, refer to the sky, to the blue of the night, to transparency, to depth, to the infinitely large.
The representation of a string (elementary unit) plunges us into the infinitely small.
The elasticity of the string and the gigantic movement between the two infinities were constitutive of our project.
Still Life - Los Alamos Series (PB-Phosphorescent Blue)
These paintings are still lifes made after objects we bought from the Black Hole, surplus of the Los Alamos laboratories.
We scanned these transparent objects by means of a scan in two dimensions.
These objects having a volume, we raised the height of the upper plan of the scan with jars, which created black edges on the image that appeared on the computer screen. These black edges determine the space between the upper and lower plans of the scan.
Here, we replaced the table on which we usually put the objects by the scan inside which we introduced objects. A new planimetric space is created. The depth of this restricted space is approximately equivalent to the thickness of the object. On the table, objects enlightened produce shadows, which install them in the space. Under the scan, the light sweeps the plan with the object; traces recorded by the scan are the ones produced by the very particular shape of the object when the light encounters it. The information of the background depend on the nature of the object. It is about reflexions. It is the movement: "on the table", "under the scan" which seems relevant to us. This other space is not observable to the naked eye but revealed by a process of analysis.
We decided to paint everything: the space of the scan, the object, and tracks of the object resulting from the passage of the light.
We painted blurred, with a spray gun and mats placed aloof from the canvas. The fuzzy outline of objects places them in a subtle relationship to the shallow space of the scan and to the light going through them. We use phosphorescent pigments mixed in variable proportions to black and white paint in order to realize a coherent camaïeu. The paintings are thus visible by day, and by night. They fade gradually in the absence of light. What interests us in the phosphorescent pigment is the memory of the light (as formerly in our TV Paintings the memory of the image) and the increase of the time allowed to read or look at the painting, until its extinction.
There is a narrow relationship between the Los Alamos objects (strongly connoted objects, stimulating the imagination, evoking the atomic bomb and radiations), the scan, and the phosphorescent pigment of the paint. With the scan, it is the sweeping of light that goes through the object. With the paint, it is always a reflected light which, thanks to the phosphorescent pigment, become an emission. It is a light at first absorbed and accumulated, then reflected, emitted, a kind of radiation as well.
Mushroom Clouds Series
In 2007-08 we did two different watercolors series and three panoramic paintings stacked on top of each other referring to the mythology of Los Alamos and the chain reaction.
In the Switch Series, we are mesmerized by the moment a TV screen is being turned off - that fleeting moment when the picture contracts, collapses until it is just a colored dot. To capture this we use a digital camera, recording each stage from full picture to totally blank screen.
These video shoots become a ritual as we travel through the American southwest. From town to town, from one motel to another, from room to room, we turn out the lights, set up the ironing board and place the camera on the ice bucket (chocked level by using a book of matches from the hotel). Then we lay on the bed, successively switching the television on and off for a continuous period of one hour.
Later on we sift through the rushes, image by image, choosing this crucial moment where the image turns into light, breaks down into colors - the primary colors of additive synthesis…
In the particular Leblanc Switch Series, we substituted black backgrounds for white backgrounds. This series develops other concepts stemming from the figure/ ground relationship. When filming a TV screen, we focus on the raster, in order to bring the ground up to the level of the figure; given the enhanced presence of the raster, the future of the ground resides in the dispersal of the figure.
In 2004 we asked engineers at an electronics company if it were possible to create an interface that would show the way pictures looked as they traveled through optical fibers, after being encoded and before being decoded.
Our aim was to make the raw flow of data visible, to create a visual reality that transcended scientific encoding into 0s and 1s. We then produced several series of paintings that focused either on this flow (Flows), or on the process of building up information in blocks (Metablocks), or on hiccups in the smooth reconstruction of pictures (Glitches). Flows is the generic name for the whole set of series described above, as well as the title of a set of paintings.
We feel that this question of the transmission of pictures via optical fibers and satellites addresses a real economic issue of our day, namely the management and redistribution of packets of time. For us, art creates a distanced world, a critical sphere in relation to ongoing technological, economical and political issues of the day, for which it proposes new meanings.
Mohave Valley Series
In 2004, a year before moving to the United States, Anne Marie had taken flying lessons in Toussus-le-Noble, France. We had the project for a new series of paintings of American desert territory, based on photos and drawings seen from the plane.
A year to obtain a private pilot's license seemed a bit long for Alain. Surfing the web, looking for territories, he found an auction site for desert plots. This site used images from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The plots in the Mohave Desert had no road access. They were listed with a summary description, including the size of the site (most often plots of less than one acre), a starting auction bid and an image. The last bidder only used to obtain, for a modest price, a title deed and an aerial image of his property, knowing that he could not have access to his site by land.
Our painting project had not only found its iconographic source, but also its conceptual dimension. The reality of the painting seemed to us more tangible than that of the territory.
The USGS images were rectangular and in black and white. We drew the largest circle possible within each rectangle, then transformed that image into a vector drawing using our usual image analysis process. We opted for a two-color representation, in the colors of the earth and the vegetation of the desert, on circular canvases (tendos).
A plot, a painting...
The degree of abstraction offered by this real estate auction site may appear today as a precursor of the Metaverse.
Ice Crystals Series
In 2005 we moved from Paris to Santa Fe. Our Art works and personal belongings were still sailing on the Atlantic ocean when we were eager to work. We bought some watercolors pigments and cookie cutters in a shape of an ice crystal. We started a series of watercolors using a large amount of water to dilute the pigments and a dropper. The drying time did the rest.
At the same time by living in the Southwest, we liked to envisage the landscape not any longer as a trip, from one motel to another, as in our TV paintings, but from a fixed point view, watching the bright variations of the sky, and the clouds in course of formation and deformation. We began by doing watercolors of small format, formed by stripes of colors: each day a sunset.
Nuages (Clouds) Series
The series of marble clouds was realized at the same time as the Sunsets and the Dividing Line of the Sky paintings.
Living in New Mexico where we had taken many photographs of clouds during aerial flights, from a Cessna. During our navigations we used to have to circumvent the clouds due to the fact that, in visual flight, it is prohibited and dangerous to fly through them.
It appeared to us that these clouds, evanescent and in perpetual transformation, could become virtually impenetrable; this is one of the reasons why we had them made in marble.
Later, in Tuscany, we had marble clouds executed from photographs taken, this time, in our garden in Santa Fe. All were sculpted in Carrara by the Poletti brothers. We had specified them the desired scale and volume, and suggested a "slightly Chinese" style.
The marble used, “Statuario”, is extremely white, soft and without veins, coming from the “Cave Michelangelo”.
Chinese Clouds Series
Shortly after we produced a series of watercolors representing Chinese clouds from an early 15th century porcelain, we had photographed earlier at the Shanghai Museum in April 2007. The series is titled Xiang Yun, which means "Clouds of Happiness”.
In February 2006, as we were in Carrara to have our series of clouds carved. We had planned to visit the Convent of San Marco in Florence, taking with us Georges Didi- Huberman’s book, Fra Angelico. We spent a whole day visiting the convent, re-reading a few passages from the book, taking notes and making sketches. In cell. 40, we drew a detail of a crucifixion, a sun placed very high on the right in the fresco. From this detail was later to be born a series of watercolors.
The Egyptian Series
In 1999 to celebrate the passage to the third millennium, we had been invited to create a work in the gardens of the Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor.
During our first stay in Luxor we became interested in the stars which decorate the ceilings of Egyptian tombs and temples.
Compared to the complex language of hieroglyphs, these painted skies seemed to us to arise from a more universal symbolism, and more immediately comprehensible.
Cue Marks Series
Cue Marks or 'cigarette burns' are the artifact that signals to the projectionist that a film reel change is imminent; it enters furtively yet instantaneously and mostly at the top right of the frame.
The Cue Mark comes from film history, the machinery of cinema, the physical weight of the reel. It's a legacy, a relic. Today, films are digitized and transmitted on a cable.
The Cue Mark has no longer reason to exist, but still is present, escaping the notice of the everyday viewer. Two episodes of 'Columbo' bring this mechanism vividly alive.
In 2012, we began working on a chrono-typology of the Cue Marks. We used this repertory to create paintings, video installations and works in neon.
Change of reel
The periodicity is approximately 20 minutes, which means four to six changes of reel per film.
Synchronization of two projectors
A set of 8 cue marks or cue dots (exceptionally 10) signals a change of reel:
- The first four cue marks (motor cue) onto four frames, at eight seconds of the last image, bring to the projectionist's attention he has to start the motor of the second projector.
- The last four cue marks (changeover cue), at one second of the last image, signal the projectionist he has to launch a new reel.
The form of the Cue marks evolved.
In the 1930s, they were black circles surrounded by a white border; then in the 40s and 50s, colored stars. Beginning in the 1960s, with Cinemascope, the Cue Marks followed the elongation of the format to become an oval. Sometimes rougher Cue Marks were superimposed as projectionist's marks, creating a tension in the image field. Sometimes the film get melted, creating improbable multicolored runs.
J + C Lamy 2023