Evidently, the parallels between decorativeness according to Matisse, Deleuze’s trans-historical Baroque, and Minimalism, are bold. It is precisely this boldness that I find important to underline, in order to render the extent of J. Jouannais’s gesture, by replacing it in the field of contemporary interrogations. Indeed, under the appearance ofcasualness and modesty, it is important to take notice of this brave and innovative transplant she carries out. By restating the Minimal critique of the masterpiece, which affirms the identity of art in these procedures, J. Jouannais restages the inversion of the artwork to its pure exterior, freeing itself from any idealism. Like the leading figures of Minimal art, she averts from any effect of fascination, emptying the work of its mysterious side, preferring shadow to glare in the visible completeness. She however takes care to never totally make hers the affirmation of sole facade, which has sometimes confined Minimalism to a hieratic, sometimes almost tyrannic stiffness. On the contrary, stitching a decorative and pleasurable line on the facade work, bringing back the work to the body’s scale, she joins the field of disobedience, of the fluidity of desire. The decorative stake then reveals itself in all its transgression and subversion, open to the unlimited reinvention of the dance of bodies. Which, by an appealing and typically Baroque inversion, is the best way to make the work ungraspable, or evenunfit for consumption.

At the end of this itinerary slowly appear the true benefits of this crossing of heritages, that diffuse a singular tonality to J. Jouannais work in its totality. From strap to rope, suspension to unstable sediment, from macroscopic to microscopic, her gesture is entirely drawn to the evocation of a suspended time. There is something, similar to a fragment, to sparkling brightness, that, like a freeze frame, operates with a singular “fixed explosion”. A revelation manages to be captured by a sort of a sort of aesthetic of epiphany, still dancing above most of the works. Establishing a relation to the fugacity of instant, to the suspension of dazzlement, J. Jouannais composes a collection of temporalities crystallised in the choreography of their takeoff. Similar to pieces of cut amber that would have stratified distant times, forever ungraspable, the work composes itself in an archipelago of memory, in which each piece delivers the colour of its singular capture.

Restrained between liberation and control, J. Jounnais’s gesture reacts under our eyes the war of compression and dilatation of bodies, between the noose and the epiphany of time.


Embracing the artistic landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries, as J. Jouannais attempts to, necessarily obliges to converse with the vocabulary of the Avant-Garde which has constructed its horizon.

Functioning as the counter form of the Utopian scent that has enveloped the two world wars, the end of the 20thcentury witnesses the emergence of political, economic and artistic stands that resist to messianic belief in humanity’s progress, working instead on building the wall of disillusion. Sleek approaches emerge in a melancholic mode, stripped of any psychology of depths, as of any spiritual or mystic appeal. A time that will give birth to strictly materialist and individualised statements valorising technical process and pure conceptual stake. The Minimal artists, leading figures of these artistic positions, synthesise this inscription in the concreteness of materials and production protocols. One easily understands that such a distancing from effects of charm and uncertainty have, first, brought the Minimal artists to move away from Matisse’s discoveries relative to decorative questions. More than ever, taut between useless artifice and hypnotic strength, capable of generating an active void to the limits of optic trance, the decorative – being that, trans-Baroque, constricted by a Matisse – was first respected.

In the same spirit of radicalism, returning to a Dadaist posture attacking the object-artwork, the Minimalists mean to deconstruct the idealist and timeless definition of art which, even when it is considered as a criticism of consumer society, always ends in generating artworks to sell. Their critic hinges on the Classical approach according to which the work would always be an entity that conjugates a visible exterior and a psychological or sacred, mysterious and attractive interiority.

All their project will consist in systematically opening the work, in such a way to destitute the illusion of interiority, in order to only consider it from its strictly formal exteriorised procedures.

At the origins of the reversal that will unexpectedly create a convergence between Minimalist austerity and revisited decorativeness, we can initiate an observation : when the Minimalists appear on the scene, it is to ask themselves questions in the fields of sculpture or architecture close to those asked by Matisse. From the mechanic figures of the Endless Columnby Brancusi, or of the Large Glassby Duchamp, it is a question of inventing a way out of the dead end inherited by Classical sculpture, that affirms a hierarchy between plinth and figure, or between construction and moving emptiness. The depreciation of the plinth or of negative space reenacting, in this context, Matisse’s questions around the depreciation of backgrounds… Minimalist experiments will often bet on a equalhybridization of plinth and figure, either with the in situ inscription in the architectural context of the exhibition or of the landscape, either by the underlining of a homogeneity of production protocols between figure and plinth, either again by a staging of disjointed or consistent materials. However, in any case, it will always be a question of shattering the obliged reference to the object-masterpiece, it being figure, ready made, pop, recycled or tinkered. We here find the implicit part of J. Jouannais’s sculptural approach, as it immediately appears, from the first encounter, conflicting firmly, with strain, against the constitution of sculpture into object. Whether they be masses, lines or colours, whether they be effects of gravity or suspension, whether they be articulations of positive and negative space, all the profound energy of the works of J. Jouannais forbids the viewer-visitor to recognise an object. No use, no figure, no memory is ever identifiable. Yet to be understood, precisely, is what these shapes manage to however capture, as an unusual crystallisation …

By placing these projects in the light of the monad-facade deciphering of the work by Deleuze, we find the anchoring point that enables J. Jouannais to stretch between Matisse and Minimalism.

Even more so, it is by her side that I insist in reading Sol Lewitt’s production protocols, for example, a work framing the vacant part of an architectural site, misrepresenting with a controlled line the ungraspable spatial volume. The slack felt works by Robert Morris are also related to the decorative facade; their sole textured surface tries to sustain itself, deprived of an internal framework. The precarious installations by R. Serra, also constantly underlining the informal zone of space, however loudly affirm the industrial memory of material, as well as the shaking, through the creation of precarious balance, of any eternal or timeless dimension.

Indeed, everything happens as if, with successive experiments, the stake of Minimal artworks finally amounted to make itself a pure art of facade, that would have absorbed monad to the point of dissolving it in material and protocol.

Pure exteriorities, sheets of felt, steel plates, copper tiles, create the ambiguity of a membrane that reduces the fold to a strict unfolding, expansion of the texture-facade, manifestation of the exteriority of surface.

Whether being by D.Judd, C. André, R. Serra or R. Morris, all approaches seem to stretch the works towards exteriority, as if the question was to invert them like gloves. As testifies the famous list-manifest by R. Serra, the inventory of forms of sculpture is finally lowered to its operational modes : “roll, pleat, fold, curve, shorten, bend, mottle, burr, tear, split, cut, section, release, catch…”. Many verbs that base the work on pure procedure, that is pure exteriority, pure concrete implantation… In short, pure facade. Similar to a dance, the production protocol resumes itself to a variation of passes, of gestural figures that reenact the choreography of origins in a Grapho-Chore inscribed in material mass. One can recognise in the works of J. Jouannais the metamorphosis of these experimentations, that gave birth to a monumental, radical sculptural scene, sometimes pushed towards exteriority to the point of complete collision with landscape. Here, however, making openly hers the filter of a revisited decorativeness, the production procedures mute, generating a human scaled world : result of the body’s projection in mass and of its repercussion in the mind of the visitor-viewer


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.


It is important to pinpoint decided antinomies, as many knotted articulations, that are only revealed after a first effect of ambulatory charm, baring the work of of its tensions.

One of the first paradoxes of J. Jouannais’s work resides in the exchange she fosters between mass and lightness. Being works made of paper, a type of lace painting, lighting the density of a wall, attracting them by opposite magnetism; suspended cutouts suggesting a spatial volume that the eye can visit; or ceramic micro organisms oscillating between texture excitement and the imaginative side of an architecture model; the material concreteness and the work’s mass always seem staged, almost choreographed. I am thinking for example of the patched up effects in cracks or brittlenesses, that are never concealed. I also spot the vivacity of some gone off track indentations of which the darns are not erased. Or again, of course, all the vocabulary of straps, ropes, support clips, platform-plinths, that is present as a reminder of the materiality of the work, of its necessary conjugation to gravity.

And however, in the same impulse, stubborn in their will to systematically upset the masses, processes of reduction leading sometimes as far as the membrane or thescreenproduce an effect of dematerialisation by transforming the viewer in a virtual visitor. In that respect, between fall and elevation a tension arises, playing with compressions and dilatations, choreographing the scansions between desertion and rigidity, obliging the visitor to constantly renegociate the virtual trajectory that is drawn in his imaginary landscape.

This ambivalence between collapse and takeoff calls another, being of the conjugation between interiority and exteriority. Following our dreamlike deambulation between macroscopic and microscopic, an organic vocabulary unfolds in a game of openwork membranes, ofscreened epidermis. But, equally, the sharp ridges induce a type of exoskeleton that would have been excavated of its organic spinelessness. From hard to soft, from membrane to structure, from skin to bone, the works of J. Jouannais are as many ambiguous skinned alive organisms, of which one no longer knows if they fray or wrap. Indeed, bone and skin, surface and structure hybridise in a game of two-sided lamé, that always enables the work to exist on both sides. From inside to outside, from parade to nakedness, again our eye hesitates and travels in uncertainty. There is, in this three dimensional dance, an energy that forces the viewer’s gaze to conceive a subjective world where fall and rise are simultaneously conjugated on the surface and in depth. The floating blades, coloured on both sidesact out the strategy of Baroque folds : points of articulation between the vertical dynamic of gravity and takeoff, and of, in depth,weft and intimacy. In that respect one finds in the work of J. Jouannais something being of a grammar of facade and monad, as observed in the aesthetic of the Baroque fold by Gilles Deleuze. Where facade presents a pure verticalized exteriority that may lead to an openwork fishnet surface, the monad initiates a pure wrapping interiority, of imaginary introspection. Whereas the fold, here the two sided blade, is the median zone that activates the conjugation between monad and facade, it is at the same time the energy by which the infinite is conjugated to the finite, the airy to enclosure, the set to the image.


Originally there would be dancing.
 If one had to imagine the first morning of the world, when nothing yet would have been neither elaborate nor built, there would already be dance. There would be the open space, the body mass of self-consciousness, and the requirement to draw a porosity between the inside of one and the outside of the other. Making models, there would be the flexibility of the neckline of the horse that will snorts, the circular coming and going of the bird that charm, the lateral movement of the crab…