It is by this come back of the Baroque fold articulating facade and monad, frontality and imaginary world, that the question of decorativeness comes back in J. Jouannais’ work. For the other indication imposing itself, when one approaches this work, is the determined decorative stake taken into account. Curves, modular strategies, suspended arabesques, and fresh colours place a charm that underlines its seduction.
However, the 20th century, being familiar with the aesthetic of the Constructed Avant-Garde, has transmitted a downgraded approach of the decorative principle, which the works of J. Jouannais do not hesitate to confront. More often related to useless anecdote that lowers the work to the status of bourgeois entertainment, non universal and futile, decorativeness would dispossess the work of its conceptual, dynamic and subversive dimension. Decorativeness has long been considered as being on the feminine side of surface makeup, the bearer of deceitful seduction, if not of toxic illusion. We will have to wait for Matisse’s openly lateral stand to see the emergence of a new perspective on the stake of decorativeness, here revisited by J. Jouannais’s assertions.
When Matisse debutes in the art world, it is to shake, next to Picasso, the Classical heritage of painting that places a hierarchy between background and narrative figure. The background is on the side of what is frontal, surface, anecdote or context… which is to say on the facade’s side. Similarly,the figure is of the nature of subject, depth, essential secret, amounting to say of the monad. It therefore matters to revivify the Classical fossilised painting, by considering a strategy, that, following the example of the Baroque fold, would recompose equal links between backdrop-facade and subject-monad. The principle question that asks itself is of a energetic coming and going between meaning and form, that does not necessarily include a radical abandonment of the figure or a shift in sole abstraction, experienced by Matisse as the limits of the avant-garde.
It is on the occasion of a trip to Morocco that Matisse discovers the arabesque, essential aesthetic cornerstone of the articulation between the visible and invisible in Oriental Art. Matisse immediately seizes the importance of the affinities between architectural form and decorative arabesque. The oriental arabesque literally shatters the modern antagonisms of abstraction and figuration, placing its ability to combine background and figure. The oriental line, kept at bay for a long time, will therefore make its come back on the art scene through tablecloth wefts, wallpapers, sculptural models posing in the workshop, or landscapes frontally risen in Matisse’s window frames. Constantly coming and going from the backdrops to the subjects in the foreground, it disseminates affinities between the painting’s strata, instituting it in a massively decorative frontality. By so doing, the oriental line contributes tohoisting the painting on the wall,with which it composes a spatial dialectic. Wall and painting are thus entangled, projecting a new energy in the empty architectural space they frame that will be the stake of the decorative project : to make emptiness- principal subject of the work that it is the casket of- live as a presence. Strengthened by this discovery since the mural Dance series to the Vence Chapel, Matisse will lay the foundations of a series of explorations that will be the occasion to experiment this convergence between painting and architecture.
Yet, it is these precise experiments that will enable Matisse to define the characteristics of the decorative line, that one can identify today in J. Jouannais’s assertions. The decorative logic is founded on one or many schemes that she repeats with regular alternation, that one can associate to a serial musical score. This logic, pushed to its ultimate limits, can be found in J. Jouannais’s assertions, mingling variations of schemes, as if they knitted a hank made of multiple decorative lines. Moreover, the decorative line constantly comes and goes between its two states, made of the background’s frontal scheme and the drawing of the figure. However, in the works of J. Jouannais a singular feat of strength enables to deal with line: using spatial projection of forms, as well as a painterly treatment of suspended solid colour, the double-sides of suspended papers, or with the edges and shadow lines of the enamelled pieces. In that respect she always manages to build a combination between the two states of the decorative and tracing line. Then, finally, major characteristic of the decorative project, the question is to generate spatial emptiness, disseminating it, activating it, an outline delimiting it, functioning similarly to revealing makeup. In doing so, the decorative line proceeds in surrounding the viewer-visitor of the work, who finds himself almost immersed in an imaginary space. It is again, here – one of the great strengths previously underlined in the works of J. Jouannais – the possibility to embark the viewer’s eye in a volumetric, spiral choreography, freed from the limits of gravity, and of axial organisation.
This same ability to generate an imaginary centre inside an outline, intensifying its limit, had just so appeared to Matisse as he was working on the Moscow Dance project. He relates : “When I had to compose a dance for Moscow, I simply went to the Moulin de la Galette on sunday afternoon. And I watched the farandole that was often at the end of the session. This farandole was very cheerful. The dancers hold hands, run through the room, entangle with those who are a bit lost. “. It is thanks to the energy specific to dance, to the original graphic energy it diffuses in space, that Matisse identifies its subversive, disobeying potential : unpredictable in its undulation, capable of generating immensity within limits. With this dancing line that draws around space to better allocate it, Matisse understands he can “give in a limited space the idea of immensity”. That is to say how notably this oriental line, shaping modules like dance shapes bodies, intensifying dance to the limits of trance, conveys an implosive energy. Generating misguidance, transgressing frontiers, provoking disorientation, it imposes itself as the line of pleasure itself, that the avant grade have tried to control so much.