The exhibition is on view by appointment. Please schedule your visit at bit.ly/PerrotinHKBooking or 3758 2180.
Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Jean-Michel Othoniel, marking his second gallery presentation in Hong Kong. Oscillating between fragility and strength, the infinite and the tangible, rationality and sensuality, Othoniel’s artworks embrace and transcend opposites in order to expand our conception of reality, reconciling contradictions and opening up realms of wonders.
Since 1993, the French artist has been working in collaboration with some of the finest glassblowers in the world on the formal and chemical properties of glass, exploring its manifold possible metamorphoses and substantial variability. A product derived from the transfiguration of matter and melted sand, glass, in essence, is rooted within nature and reflects the exuberance of its potentials and beauty. Similarly, and like an alchemist, Othoniel sublimates natural elements, recomposing and transforming them according to his emotions and to the cultural context he is working in.
The Precious Stonewall series was developed following Othoniel's residency in India, where he worked with Indian glassmakers and encountered mirrored glass for the first time. On the road from Delhi to Firozabad, a city with an age-old glassmaking tradition, he was struck by the stacks of bricks accumulated in the hope of building a house. To the artist, those stacks of bricks are a representation of energy and hope.
In bricks, Othoniel has found a universal element, a common denominator between cultures and one that has traversed the history of humanity. They are also historically linked to revolutionary movements — the Precious Stonewall series is a poetic reference to the Stonewall uprising in New York city in 1969, which is generally considered the impetus for the modern gay rights movement.
I like to immerse myself in the basic, minimal forms that are at the foundation of our civilizations – namely the brick which exists across all cultures. it is a common denominator that has helped mankind build its utopias worldwide. So, in a way, the simplicity and universality of the brick allows me to speak one language across continents.
Wild Knot (Noeud Sauvage, 2021), situated in the same gallery room with the Precious Stonewall sculptures, casts an overall cosmic radiance on the exhibition, embracing all its featured elements in its inclusive circular movement.
The hanging sculpture takes the form of the Borromean knot. A constellation of white and red glass beads, the work belongs to a series that began in 2015 when the artist met with Mexican mathematician Aubin Arroyo. Curved and sensual, the Wild Knot also recalls the imaginary gesture of a calligrapher whose writing would have crystallized in the air.
In Chinese culture, knots have a spiritual connotation and symbolize longevity and eternity. The word “knot”, or “jié” (結) in Mandarin Chinese, implies a connection, as in "union" and "marriage". “Jié” in the context of the latter derives from the tradition of tying strands of hair from a couple during their wedding ceremony in ancient times. In the second room of the gallery, bathed in daylight from a large window, suspended glass sculptures from the series entitled Suspended Lover (Amant Suspendu, 2021) could relate to these traditions and to the union of lovers.
About three meters long, the centerpiece of the harbour view room, resembling a double necklace, unfolds its sensual body like a living creature, combining the preciousness of a rare piece of jewelry with a sense of robustness derived from its weight and gigantic size.
Beyond its organic features, the necklace motif takes on various meanings according to the context it is exhibited in and the traditional culture it refers to. For Hong Kong, the artist wishes to hint at the spiritual dimension of handblown glass beads, which brings to mind devotion beads used by Buddhists to measure time, to support meditative breathing, or to count the repetitions of prayers, chants, or mantras.
A material shows its greatest vulnerability at the moment it changes form. And I’ve felt the same way about myself. I’ve responded to these materials at times when I was sort of changing, unsure, undefined.
Born in 1964 in Saint-Étienne, France
Lives and works in Paris, France
Jean-Michel Othoniel’s enchanting aesthetics revolves around the notion of emotional geometry. Through the repetition of modular elements such as bricks or his signature beads, he creates exquisite jewelry-like sculptures whose relationship to the human scale ranges from intimacy to monumentality. His predilection for materials with reversible and often reflective properties—particularly blown glass, which has been the hallmark of his practice since the early 1990s—relates to the deeply equivocal nature of his art. Monumental yet delicate, baroque yet minimal, poetic yet political, his contemplative forms, like oxymorons, have the power to reconcile opposites. While his dedication to site-specific commissions for public spaces has led some of his work to take an almost architectural turn, Othoniel’s holistic sensibility compares to fêng shui, or the art of harmonizing people with their environment, allowing viewers to inhabit his world through reflection and motion.
Notable public installations by Othoniel include his Belles Danses (Beautiful Dances) fountains at the Palace of Versailles, France; the Treasury at Angoulême Cathedral, Angoulême, France; and ALFA, consisting of 114 fountain sculptures, at the National Museum of Qatar, Doha, Qatar. In 2019, Othoniel exhibited at the Louvre Museum a new series of paintings on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Louvre pyramid, which subsequently entered the museum’s permanent collection. In fall 2021, at the invitation of the Petit Palais, Othoniel took over the museum and its garden with more than 70 new artworks for his exhibition The Narcissus Theorem.
The artist was recently inducted into The Academy of Fine Arts (sculpture section) in France.