‘The Accomplished Form of The Poem,’ a review by Jérôme Sans, on the occasion of the exhibition ‘OUR LAND JUST LIKE A DREAM,’ curated by Meriem Berrada, on view at MACAAL, Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain Al Maaden, Marrakech, from September 24, 2022 to July 16, 2023
Known for his sentimental environments, Malagasy artist Joël Andrianomearisoa explores the materiality of emotions through his polyphonic works and installations. On the occasion of the first monograph dedicated to a contemporary artist at MACAAL (Museum of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden) in Marrakech, ‘OUR LAND JUST LIKE A DREAM’ explores the warmth of his sentimental poetry through a minimalist aesthetic revisited by Moroccan craftsmanship.
Orchestrated by curator and head of the museum Meriem Berrada around the artist’s vocabulary, it features numerous collaborations with Moroccan and international artists as well as local craftspeople. The exhibition is also punctuated by a selection of works from the collections of the Alliances Foundation, which renovated the museum in 2018. In search of universal narratives, Joël Andrianomearisoa questions the effects and psychological significance of the materials. Displayed in the exhibition rooms as the acts of an opera, the show includes several characters all serving a purpose to the main story.
Coming from Malagasy multiculturalism which exists at the junction between Africa and Asia and is attached to Europe through colonial history, Joël Andrianomearisoa freely summons mixed references in the service of his emotional explorations. His work implements his unique way of inhabiting the coldness of industrial minimalism with the warmth of strong personal narratives that pass through time and men. After four residencies, the exhibition is the result of a dialogue with local artisans. Glasswork, embroidery, and ceramics are a few of the many forms that intervene in the mutual influence at the origin of the immersive journey that blends the borders between art and craft. Entirely produced in Morocco, the works presented in the exhibition underline local production skills and the possibility of an art world, particularly African, international, and free of import-export networks, which are often destructive both for the environment and local know-how.
Hymne à la rose, or sans parole, and Litanie des horizons obscurs, or chansons de la lune punctuate the exhibition with their real or suggested architectures. With Hymne à la Rose, forty-three roses made of hammered or wrought iron adorn the walls of a room entirely painted black, a monument to romanticism tinged with the coldness of metal carried by the helix sung by singer Hindi Zahra. The whole is enveloped in an exhilarating, almost intoxicating, smell of burned wood, leather, and incense. Joël Andrianomearisoa seems to reconcile lyricism and materialism, so far held at a certain distance, within a multisensory journey that begins by surrendering to one’s own vulnerability. The possibility of such material-emotion forged by the artist seems to take its full measure in the aphorism of René Char from Moulin premier: “Audacity to be for a moment oneself the accomplished form of the poem. Wellbeing to have glimpsed the shining matter-emotion instantaneously queen.”
From earth to sky, from matter to dream, the exhibition seems to call upon a transcendent form at work in any creative process as well as in any emotional connection. In the polysemy of the title of the exhibition, land means both earth and territory, matter and culture. Such an idea is reflected in his new painting series Les herbes folles du vieux logis, where textile abstraction composes the landscape of the setting sun in a romantic golden hour. His seductive yet deceiving labyrinth of passions responds to his way of seeing the world as a whole. His practice extends into multiple spaces and never stops at borders, be they physical or mental. Through raw matter and its transformation and display, he evokes the tragedies of political bodies, love, violence, sexuality, or marginalization. Silk paper, glass, and flowers, which are characteristic elements of his vocabulary, reveal a world of vibrations: sensitive, poetic, olfactory, and visual, all connected within a synesthetic experience of solitude that reactivates a contemporary romantic wanderer.
Thus, his works function as a vast poem to this otherness to which each one exposes themselves, asking familiar questions: How can I forget you? How can I dance with you again? In Joël Andrianomearisoa’s work, the ephemeral nature of all relationships resonates with the fragility of a world inclined to disappear. Catalysed in the work A few of my favourite things, a mural drawing and an accumulation of words, dates, and frames reflecting situated glimpses onto the artist’s carrier such as his participation to the famous Revue Noire or the Venice Biennale in 2019, all intertwined with more intimate elements taken out from his studio’s archive. The exhibition could be described as “an acknowledgement of his creations, his inspirations, and his emotions,” all connected by the frail yet assertive thread of the artist’s black line. Hence, perhaps in Char’s formula lies the essence of the show, beyond an ode to craftsmanship inherent to his practice: “the audacity to be, for a moment, oneself,” the accomplished form of the exhibition, or, at least, a particular form of a retrospective.