Eva Jospin’s Contemporary Classic

In July 2023, we met French artist Eva Jospin in San Gimignano, where she told us about her first exhibition at GALLERIA CONTINUA, and spoke extensively about her sophisticated dialogue with landscape and the European artistic tradition.

Daughter of a former Prime Minister of France, the artist lives and works in Paris. Best known for surprising forests, caves and architectures carved into cardboard, Jospin is passionate about theatrical scenography, Renaissance and Baroque art and culture.

Eva Jospin. Photo by Lorenzo Fiaschi.

“Vedute”, the show at GALLERIA CONTINUA, covers fundamental passages of your work. Can you tell me about it?

Eva Jospin: For the first exhibition of this new collaboration with the gallery, I chose a title that recalls a painting genre. A sculpture I made in 2019 was entitled Capriccio, a genre quite close to the ‘views’: both tell of a connection with landscape, transformed by the painter’s gaze.

Landscape painting initially arose in the backgrounds of Renaissance paintings, as in the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci, and in many other paintings. When I started making the first forests I was mainly inspired by these paintings and by tapestries of hunting scenes.

I don’t really like working using photographic images. My references are painting, architecture, the natural landscape of forests, caves, rocks and minerals and the archaic landscape, or the one transformed by the vision of painters, sculptors and set designers.

Eva Jospin – Forêt 2023, cardboard and wood, 170 x 240 x 36 cm. | courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

Another very important reference in my work are the Baroque gardens, my great passion. The spirit of Italian Baroque gardens spread throughout Europe influencing the rocaille style in France from the 18th century up to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century, and to the present day.

In San Gimignano it was important to show not only the techniques but my work’s themes. Hence there is a high relief, a cardboard forest hiding a small cave, a drawing and a sculpture of a cave.

One day, I would love to find a few coins in one of my caves, thrown there by someone to make a wish, as is done for ancient monuments! On show, there is also a tapestry, the first I have ever made in this size and framed.

Eva Jospin: veduta della mostra Galleria Continua, San Gimignano | Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo by: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

Embroidery is also an important part of your work. For Dior’s   2021 autumn-winter collection, you presented a large work entitled Chambre de Soie (Silk Room), inspired by the Embroidery Room in Palazzo Colonna, Rome, and by Virginia Woolf’s 1929 novel A Room of One’s Own.

Eva Jospin: The tapestries I created for Dior were very large, measuring, in total, ninety meters in length. The three tapestries exhibited in the show titled Palace at the Palais des Papes in Avignon measure thirty meters in total.

Are these tapestries also made in collaboration with the artisans of the Chanakya atelier in India, with whom you’ve been working for a while?

Eva Jospin: Yes, they are very good and I have an excellent dialogue with them. It’s very important for an artist to establish good relationships with artisans.

The more the collaboration goes on, the more they enter into your world, your taste. Generally, when we get along well right away, it means that they understand the job and the collaboration becomes increasingly precise.

Eva Jospin – Galleria 2023 (detail), silk thread embroidery on silk canvas and cardboard frame, 160 x 240 cm unframed, 176 x 256 cm with frame.| Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

At GALLERIA CONTINUA there are three concrete bas-reliefs. What is the inspiration behind this new work?

Eva Jospin: The attraction I feel for the mineral world. They are more abstract works, casts of cardboard sculptures, made by superimposing many layers of paper. These works require a complex sculptural intervention and a long time of execution.

The stratification of rocks fascinates me: it shows us a section of time. And it is the only thing that allows us human beings to read the stars’ and our planet’s past. Fossils have taught us that there was life on the planet before us.

Going back to the subject of baroque caves, it is interesting how shells and pieces of coral were often inserted into them, because then they didn’t know well how rocks had formed. It was thought that they were born of soft material, a bit like coral, petrifying over time, which is in fact only true of volcanic rocks.

I find interesting those moments when the understanding of the world progresses, but is in part it still mysterious and vague, as it happened in the Baroque era. These are moments in which the imagination seeps into the crevices of knowledge, to fertilize it.

Eva Jospin – Stratification (Vedute) series 2023, acrylic cement and pigments, 170 x 125 cm. | Courtesy the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio
You started working on your own with a material that you could easily find on the street, cardboard. Now you have important commissions and often work on a very large, scale – I am thinking for example of the architectural installation for the Cour Carreè of the Louvre. How did you experience the transition from a small studio to a large “workshop”, to use a Renaissance term?

Eva Jospin: It all happened quite quickly. The first time I worked with multiple assistants was on the Louvre project in 2016, and since then I have become accustomed to having a larger team to complete complex projects.

My practice is time consuming, and today I necessarily work with a team. When people start working with me they have no idea how to do the work, they have to discover the technique that I invented.

For embroidery, or bronze, I work with very good craftsmen and I don’t feel frustrated if I don’t know how to make a cast or embroider, because I’m completely absorbed by the other parts of my work. In my studio, we literally organize the whole production.

In conversation with the art historian Pierre Wat you said that making art always has roots in the past, and often in narratives or works whose origins have been lost. Can you elaborate a little on this idea?

Eva Jospin: We don’t know the origin of a large part of the things we see, and this is something that I find intriguing: the constant repeating of things whose origins have been lost, which nevertheless got to us through words or gestures. Often even the ‘where’ is lost: this is also why I like to compare human memory to the memory of minerals and rocks, where the latter wins above all else.

Eva Jospin: Côté Cour Côté Jardin, 2021 – legno e cartone, 350 x 500 x 360 cm. Exhibition Palazzo, Palais des Papes, Avignon, 2023 | Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA

You also stated that the invention of perspective created a very specific approach to landscape representation.

Eva Jospin: That’s true. At a certain moment, we privileged sight over other senses: for us Europeans the eye became central. For a long time, models and drawings were not the only tools for ‘building’ the world. There were other techniques.

The invention of perspective influenced architecture, the way of planning gardens and building theaters’ sets. I’m thinking, for example, of the optical illusion in Palazzo Farnese in Rome, the stone framing of the doors on the ground floor which creates a false perspective with a vanishing point, altering the perception of space.

For me drawing can create worlds, it can be blown up in scale and the same goes for the architectural model. It’s true that in my work I really like to transform the scale of representation.

Eva Jospin: Nymphées, 2022 – legno e cartone, pietre, conchiglie, carta colorata,
1000 x 800 x 700 cm. Exhibition Panorama, Fondation Thalie, Bruxelles, Belgium, 2023 | Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo by: Camille Lemonnier

A perspective vision and the vanishing point are somehow absent from your forests and, above all, from the beautiful drawings that are on display at CONTINUA, that stand out for the richness of detail.

Eva Jospin: Yes it’s true, I use detail a lot to de-centralize vision. My drawings are super thin, almost transparent, you have to get close to them. They are decidedly less dramatic works than the forests. The latter capture you, a bit like a flashy woman, while drawings require concentration and patience.

The drawings and embroidery never play on perspective, everything is flat, on the same plane. I love working or with sculpture, where you can get around it, where you can enter inside an environment. But even when it comes to forests, the viewer always remains on the threshold.

How would you say that the relationship between culture and nature is played in your work?

Eva Jospin: The space I imagine is not yet real, but I hope it will at some point become real: I hope to create my own garden. The garden is the space where nature and culture meet and mix.

Another thing I love about gardens is that even the most beautiful ones are often ephemeral. There are very few historic parks or gardens that have remained intact over time: they change owners and are altered.

In my work, I connect the garden with the materials I use, cardboard. A garden is never invasive, if you don’t do any maintenance, nature resumes its course.

Even my relationship with architecture almost always refers to the “Folly” or the “Palace” more than to other types of architecture. They too are linked to the idea of a garden.

Eva Jospin: Lustre, 2023 – metallo, cartone, vetro, elementi vari, 252 x 185 x 185 cm | Courtesy of OTresson / Avignon Tourisme / the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA

The garden as a cultural space is also a very oriental concept.

Eva Jospin: Not necessarily. I believe that all eras and civilisations have created gardens: they were vegetable gardens, rural landscapes, orchards or hunting parks.

Originally the meaning of Paradise is an enclosed garden [from the Persian pairidaēza Editor’s note], but it is also true that these parks were created for hunting. Then there were the gardens of Epicurus, who did philosophy in the garden.

In our relationship with the garden, I find the ideas of artificiality and illusion particular. The Chinese, who have a very strong relationship with the garden, have a true devotion to stones, but they don’t build fake caves.

They take stones in which they see special qualities, and they may even move them as they are, or minimally modified, across China, which is certainly more expensive than building a fake cave. The rock itself becomes an element of devotion towards nature.

On the contrary, we have recreated fake rocks, a very simple and naive deception, because the trick is so obvious. But for a moment, this simple deception makes us feel like children again.

In my work I ask myself questions, but I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why we recreate nature through illusion, but this really fascinates me, and perhaps reproducing this illusion will one day help me find an answer.

Alessandra Alliata Nobili

Founder e Redazione | Milano
#donnenellarte #Iondra #sudestasiatico #cina #postfeminism #visualculture #videoart #artepartecipata #artepubblica #installazione #mediatechnology #arteambientale #arteambientata

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