The space of the place

As much as a circumscribed space can be shown to possess metric relations of harmony between its various parts, symmetrical effects, isomorphisms, unusual perspectival arrangements and architectural specificities, these particularities cannot explain the fascination exerted by some concrete spaces, nor can they explain the reason for certain sensations (or even emotions) that these may provoke with those who interact with them (Maderuelo, 2008:23).

It is this introduction of emotion that marks the main difference between space and place: place is space free from all the tension of its physical reality. Jeanine Cohen’s exhibitions are always set in places, since her work is endowed with this transformational and liberating power. There is an empathetic relationship between her works and the space that hosts them, a relationship which is not the result of a simple arithmetic progression – in which each term is equal to the sum of the preceding term and a constant –, but of the multiplying effect of the correspondence between work(s) and space.

In the exhibition Slipped between, presented by the Belgian artist at Appleton Square, we witness the very emergence of this relational dynamic. Colour, time, space and light, and the different ways and conditions in which these elements are expressed, are the driving force that triggers multiple perceptive games in which perception asserts itself as a sensory and emotional process.

On the ground floor, a group of works are presented that complement the architectural conditions of the space. These wooden structures, with their clear reference to grids and also to frames, are followed by graphite drawings on the wall (a method recently introduced by the artist in her work), tracing the arrangements of angles between the various works and those present in the existing architecture. Two key qualities characterise these structures. Firstly, the importance of the idea of the construction of painting in Jeanine Cohen’s work; secondly, the way in which colour spreads beyond what seems to be the edge of the work, becoming ubiquitous.

The (apparent) absence of canvas, the three-dimensionality of the wooden modules, emphasised by their distance from the wall, the size of the pieces (those in this exhibition are larger than those she habitually produces), may lead us to question their status as paintings. Jeanine Cohen, however, is always a painter. The uses she makes of colour, whether expansive, or more reserved, of its relationship with light, speak of the profoundly pictorial nature of her work. By painting the back of the modules that comprise her works, she allows the, always discreet, chromatic complexity of her works to gradually emerge, according to the wavelength, the ray of (sun) light, the conditions of the space that hosts it. It is in this space-time continuum that her work reveals itself.

On the gallery’s lower floor, another exhibition moment takes place, in which, in a way, one of the fundamental premises of Jeanine Cohen’s work is emphasised: there is no space, in the sense of emptiness, between the works: every aspect of the place is utilised, in a controlled equilibrium, to produce a combined meaning. The wall that faces towards us is painted red, demonstrating the way in which the surface, in this case the wall, against which the various structures are arranged, forms part of the creative act.

The title Slipped between is not only a synthesis of this dynamic of contamination, but an appeal to the viewer to become involved in this nexus of relationships, slipping through the place that Jeanine Cohen, through transformation, has created at Appleton Square.

Ana Cristina Cachola

(December 2013), APPLETON SQUARE