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.
Bettina Samson (1978, Paris, France) lives and works between Aubervilliers and Paris. Her solo exhibitions include: Alligator Wine, curated by Zebra 3, La Fabrique Pola, Bordeaux, France (2019); Deep Waves in a Swamp, Sunset Artist Run Space, Besançon, France (2018); Foehn d’été (with Jagna Ciuchta), Centre d’Art Contemporain de La Villa du Parc, Annemasse, France (2016); Fajro, Centre de Céramique de La Borne (in collaboration with Lucien Petit & Hervé Rousseau), Henrichemont, France (2016); Ligne Dormante, Eternal Gallery, Tours, France (2016) and Replica, curated by Julien Fronsacq, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2009). Her recent group exhibitions include : (upcoming) Céramique, Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, France (2021); La photographie à l’épreuve de l’abstraction, FRAC Normandie, Rouen, France (2020); Un Autre Monde // Dans Notre Monde, Frac Grand Large, Dunkerque, France (2020); Le cabaret du néant, FRAC Île de France, Château de Rentilly, France (2020); Récits invisibles, Centre d’Art La Chapelle Saint-Jacques, St Gaudens, France (2019); Life on Mars, CAPA, Aubervilliers, France (2019); The Bauhaus #itsalldesign, mudac, Lausanne, Switzerland (2019); Grasping a Concept is Mastering the Use of a Form, curated by Beatriz Ortega Botas, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain (2017); Atomic Surplus, curated by Erin Eldern, Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, USA (2013); Man in the Dark, The Woodmill, London, United Kingdom (2010) and Dynasty, Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris & Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2010).
Her permanent in-situ installation La vase et le sel (Hoodoo Calliope), 2019, is part of the “Commande artistique Gascogne”, a public commission in Bordeaux, France.
Jennifer Tee (1973, Arnhem, The Netherlands) lives and works in Amsterdam. Her solo exhibitions include: DRIFT, multilingual performance choreography, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2020); Ether Plane ~ Material Plane, ISCP, New York, USA (2018); Let it Come Down, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany (2017); Let it Come Down, Camden Arts Centre, London, United Kingdom (2017); Structures of Recollections and Perseverance, Kunstraum, London United Kingdom (2017); Tulip Palepai, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2017); The Soul in Limbo, 6th Cobra Art Prize, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, The Netherlands (2016); Occult Geometry, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark (2014). Her recent group exhibitions include: Uit de Klei, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands (2019); Cultural Threads, Textielmuseum, Tilburg, The Netherlands (2018); Retour sur Mulholland Drive, La Panacée, Montpelier, France (2017); What people do for money, Manifesta 11, Zurich, Switzerland (2016).
Tee was a resident artist at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and ISCP, New York, USA. She was awarded the 2015 Cobra Art Prize and the 2020 Amsterdam Art Prize.
Joani Tremblay (1984) lives and works between Brooklyn and Montreal. Their solo exhibitions include: Wanderlust, Kantor LA, Los Angeles, USA (2018); Landscape Gaze and Breezy Erudition, and What About Formal Freedom? V3, Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture, Edmonton, Canada (2016); Landscape Gaze and Breezy Erudition, and What About Formal Freedom? V2, Alberta Printmakers Gallery, Calgary, Canada (2016); Open Spaces, Open Studio Gallery, Toronto, Canada (2015); I Don’t Know About My Dreams Anymore, 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan (2014). Their recent group exhibitions include: Angela Heisch + Oda Iselin Sønderland + Joani Tremblay, Projet Pangée, Montreal, Canada (2020); Source Matters, NARS Foundation, Brooklyn, USA (2020); Red Sky at Morning, Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, USA (2019); Plastic Garden, Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York, USA (2019); Hidden Valley, 00-LA, Los Angeles, USA (2018).
They have participated in residencies in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin and Tokyo, and have upcoming residencies in 2021 at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York, as well as White Leaves Residency in New Mexico.
The artist thanks The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation for its financial support.