Jean-Luc Petit (Namur, 1965) is an artist and architect. He lives and works in Liège.
His architectural practice supports his art, and his visual and spatial interventions.
His abstract art goes beyond the application of material on a support. He questions durability, oblivion, absence, reminiscence, error, accident, and infra-thinness in relation to sites.
2007 Ianchelevici triennial prize, with the artist Jean Glibert, special jury prize.
2018 Artist residency at the RAVI in Liège.
2019 Artistic intervention at the Pavillon Fourmarier and exhibition of photographs, video and paintings in Chaudfontaine.
The artist’s working process leads him this time to use the properties of cast iron and its components: iron, carbon and graphite precipitation. Paper is also taken to its limits.
The image and the print are questioned in the same way as the trame, the grid pattern and the abstraction.
Jean-Luc Petit shows us here drawings, or suites of drawings, expressing empty, full, tension, depth but also the idea of falsehood, error, of reproduction…
This exhibition extends his in situ intervention at La Menuiserie.
For this people’s heart is waxed gross,
and their ears are dull of hearing,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest at any time they should see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and should understand with their heart,
and should be converted,
and I should heal them.
Matthew, XII, 15
These verses by St. Matthew resonate in my mind like an alarm bell,
while, out of breath, I’m climbing the steps leading to St. Martin’s Bell Tower where Jean-Luc Petit suggested we should visit…
There are only two chairs there.
Are they a testament to a presence or an absence? Or simply an echo or resonance?
No doubt, I will not learn much more than that.
My feet drumming down on a steel spiral staircase, I climb even higher to emerge outside. From up there, I see the city.
I look down at it and see La Menuiserie, a building constructed 500 years after the Bell Tower from where I am observing it and which Jean-Luc also invited me to come and see more closely.
How could you describe Jean-Luc Petit’s work?
You could, of course, question him directly: what is the aim – what is the meaning – of his actions, his approach, his research, his intention?
But Jean-Luc doesn’t give much away… Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
At La Menuiserie, the artist’s intention is to show something.
He wants to show something, but without showing us what it is.
In fact, it would be enough for us to see that he doesn’t wish to show us much.
But what does he want to show?
Nothing, he will say, or very little.
Nothing that is not already there, but that we don’t see, that we no longer see.
Because, as it will be revamped, soon we will not see it at all. We will not see this building with a modernist disposition, placed a little out of context, or at least without taking into account what the context had to offer in terms of continuity…
This building preferred to keep its distance when exposed to traditional semi-detached architecture, thus generating an unlikely gap.
The fact that a chair is standing there, abandoned in the void, is revealing.
But what is revealed?
The chair? The void? Or the position of the building which, by distancing itself from the wall, has created the void?
Have you seen the void?
Because, the important thing is, not that the spectator looks, but that he sees.
And the first thing to be revealed is that the artist is striving to show us, by exposing the presence of a chair, that, somewhere between our gaze and this chair, lies the history of the world becoming what it has become, or at least, the history of the city consisting of continuity and a few fractures.
Not the whole of history, of course, but a few fragments…
Those fragments resulting from a modernist attitude, establishing themselves beyond expected continuities but continuing the story anyway.
Tracing it is what interests the artist.
Another indication of the same process is when, at Les Drapiers, the artist aims to hide the fact that he knows what he is looking for.
While at La Menuiserie, he doesn’t want to show that he wants people to see what he’s showing.
But is the intention to show something? Maybe the intention is to reveal something.
Commenting on a previous exhibition by Jean-Luc Petit, Cécile Vandernoot writes that, in an approach which gives equal importance to the material, the gestures, the tools and the mediums, the result is not an objective… This says it all. Although inevitably, this leads you to wonder whether or not the artist improvises.
This would attach little importance to the length of the development process from its context, from where it takes root… As St. Martin reveals the urban singularity of La Menuiserie, the graphite tells the story of the city, even before entering the artist’s studio to be “put to work.
Cécile also writes that each place expects a specific way of exhibiting.
Thus, at Les Drapiers, the process, born long before graphite is put to paper, lives on and becomes permanent in two specific moments: the framing and hanging remind us that these works – whether paintings or drawings – are also pictures.
In Jean-Luc’s studio, hypnotised by one of the intermediate phases of his approach, I had almost forgotten that the artwork had the capacity to modify the space it invades, to the point that the space integrates the artwork as much as the artworks integrate the space.
And when there is a frame, it wants to be an integral part of the artwork, thus defining a piece of the universe.
Is the intention to define something?
Is the intention to prove something?
Put more simply, is the intention to say something?
If there is experimentation, the result of this is the first thing to really say something.
The artist creates something then looks at it.
What the artist wants to say, he already said earlier: “I’m looking.”
One thing seems obvious to me: put even more simply, the purpose is to look for something.
Liège, August 24, 2020
To complete his work at La Menuiserie, Jean-Luc Petit invites you to climb the tower of the Basilica of Saint Martin.
This one is a must as soon as you enter the courtyard of La Menuiserie
At random of significant places, three chairs mark these places.
Links are established.
At La Menuiserie, works also speak of the Basilica.
In the tower of Saint-Martin, an exceptional space is revealed with artistic interventions. At the top, the City is discovered at 360 degrees and part of the work of the artist at La Menuiserie is perceived only from this point of view.
Rue du Mont Saint-Martin, 66 at 4000 Liège.
Opening hours :
– Tuesday to Saturday morning from 10:00 to 12:30 am
– Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
– the weekends of 19 and 20 /9, 3 and 4 /10, 17 and 18 /10: the basilica is also open in the afternoon from 14:00 to 17:00
Access to the tower is possible during the opening hours of the Basilica.
Courtesy of the Unité pastorale Saint-Martin Liège
At La Menuiserie and Basilica: musical creation by Yuki Miyashige, who accompanies the work of Jean-Luc Petit. The composer is inspired by these places, with the idea of workshops, stairs, …