Bernard Dejonghe

„clear and wild”

April 25, 2010, to September 10, 2010

Bernard Dejonghe began his artistic career as a ceramic artist. After classical studies at the “Ecole des Métiers d’Art” in Paris from 1960 to 1965 where he learned moulding and drawing techniques, he moved to Fontenay-aux-Roses in 1968, in Emile Decoeur’s former workshop, a famous ceramic artist from the beginning of the XXth century. Considering materials as reflection supports, he began his research on enamel on terracotta baked at high temperatures, running through the range of mineral fusion points, with a quasi-scientific approach, to obtain materials at the same time close but different. These works were at first aimed for architects, but little by little his creations transformed themselves into sculptures taking their place in the space in which they were placed. How many times has the title of his exhibition in 1979 in the Daniel Saver Gallery made the current generation dream? Trente états d’un Rouge à propos de la mort d’un four. (Thirty states of Red, concerning the death of a kiln.) Almost thirty years ago, this exhibition showed an alignment of plaques covered in red enamel, baked in Decoeur’s kiln before it was dismantled.

Preferring a more mineral environment, he moved to Briançonnet in 1977 with his partner, Ginette Monod, in the hilly countryside near Nice. He built his workshop, as well as his Japanese kiln in order to use wood. He continued his research concerning reactions of earth that he presented in his exhibition in 1980 called “Terres gelées et d’autres” (Frozen Earth and Others) where his experiments concerning quick cooling in snow on porcelain slabs were shown, or also in 1984 in his exhibition “Matière – signes –silence” (Matter – Signs – Silence) at the Modern Art Museum in Villeneuve d’Ascq where one hundred blue squares interact with each other. His attraction for minerals, the original raw material – geological structures, weathered through time, as well as their transformation by fire led him naturally to become interested in glass, as a closely related material. Contrary to his trials on glaze at the surface of the earth, his attraction to glass led him to orient his research on the effects of crystallisation in the mass, obtained through very slow cooling of glass that had been heated to high temperatures. Influenced by Land Art, the relationship between his works and their environment became more systematic in the 1980’s. Glass and earth were installed in the hills, in rivers, in unusual venues such as the Saint-Trophime Cloister in Arles, or hung in museums.

Since 1989, Bernard Dejonghe has been travelling through the deserts: Mauritania, Algeria, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, and Niger. He has been looking for traces of primitive life, cave drawings, or even cosmic glass. He seems to have been born again. The influence of these trips can be seen in the large personal exhibitions of the artist that marked the1990 decade at the Modern Art Museum in Nice, at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris, at the Municipal Museum in Evreux, in Zurich, in Geneva, in Dunkirk, in the Bourges Water Tower Museum… His sculptures are close to signs, timeless, simple, and minimalist: lines, circles, columns, triangles… At the end of the 1990’s, his glass works are purer, without crystallisation, as the   Formes brèves (Short Shapes) that repeat themselves, all the same, and all different, and whose frozen transparency plunges us into the origins of the cosmic world. And what if Dejonghe’s approach was a slow race marking his works in the timeless, mineral history of the world?

White glass and black earth, white earth and white glass complement each other to speak of the same subject, the mineral universe surrounding us. On this occasion, the photographer, François Goalec, participates in the exhibition to present large prints. Photographs of the workshop, the atmosphere, different trips, and works of art as well as installations allow us to have a glimpse into the universe of Bernard Dejonghe.

Eric Louet Curator of the glass museum, Conches (France)

Translation: Jacquie Bridonneau

in: "8 artistes et la terre"(2009) - Bernard Dejonghe (PDF - english/french)

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