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Reading Rämistrasse #86: AJ on Jean-Vincent Simonet at Sentiment - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Reading Rämistrasse #86: AJ on Jean-Vincent Simonet at Sentiment

Many of you probably know the gallery Sentiment (Daniel’s reviewed it before). It’s a modest space, tucked into a postwar housing development surrounded by mature trees and Baugespanne, those aerials that indicate the heights of future buildings in a site slated for demolition. Like many such small galleries, Sentiment exists because the building in which it dwells soon will not. The deliberate, even ponderous nature of Swiss planning law creates as a side effect these brief, beautiful projects that are born with their days already numbered. More of our lives should be experienced as such a countdown unto death. We would appreciate it all more.

The current exhibition suits this gallery well. I’m only going to recount it quickly here, because I can see that you are busy. But if you have time, it’s open until Saturday 14th of May, and it’s worth seeing. The show consists of photographs of the interior of a commercial printing factory. What do we see? Objects on desks. Workspaces. A printing machine seen close up. Reams of paper offcuts piled into trolleys. Packages covered in labels. The stuff of production.

Installation view, Jean-Vincent Simonet, Heirloom, Sentiment, 2022

Courtesy Sentiment

But how do we see it? In Jean-Vincent Simonet’s images, we see these prosaic facts with a peculiar intensity, through his constant hacking of the printing process. For these images are both images of, and were printed at, the Fouquet-Simonet industrial printing factory, his family’s print workshop. He therefore has extraordinary access to the machines that no mere artist-residence could ever hope for. Forms are exaggerated or reduced through the careful abuse of the printer. The colours are extraordinary. The photographs carry extremely pure tones of purple, green and orange that are striking to the eyes because they are unfamiliar. These colours are the result of colour separations made not with the standard pigments of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK), but with synthetic tones my eyes have never seen in a photograph before: automobile colours, hotrod purples and acidulous greens. The results are, in the beautiful phrase printers use ‘outside the gamut’, simply not reproducible by normal methods.

Jean-Vincent Simonet, Untitled (heirloom)​, 2022

Courtesy Sentiment

Art history textbooks are full of examples of art that can be called meta-photography, in which the process of image development is hacked in a way that reflects on the mysteries of the photographic image, on silver salts and their curious properties. But this set of experiments is downstream: interventions in industrial printing. The images have been worked over with a mixture of intuition and calculated experiment. Pigments are smudged by hand, or let run. Some colours are encouraged to fix, others are washed off prematurely. The results are a kind of painting, but also, without diminishing the painterly ambition, obviously conceptual: printing about printing.

The entire project has a pathos that recalls Tacita Dean’s epochal work Kodak, in which she filmed (on 16mm) the last 16mm film production factory in France, shortly before it closed down, her camera chasing the film as it moved through the soon-to-be-silent building, through wet darkness and monochromatic light. Philemon Otth, co-director of Sentiment, told me that the artist might be the last in the family to run the print shop.

Jean-Vincent Simonet, Heirloom, Sentiment, Murwiesenstrasse 45, 8057 Zürich
01 April–14 May 2022

Reading Rämistrasse

If art criticism is losing ground, we must act. That’s why we created space for criticism – Reading Rämistrasse – on the Kunsthalle Zürich website and publish reviews of current exhibitions in Zürich. What is published here does not represent the opinion of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Because criticism has to be independent.

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