The exhibition "Le Génieu du lieu" deftly presents a renewed focus on the industrial building of Creux de l’enfer, reconfigured as an art centre exactly thirty years ago. The seven guest artists, including one duo, populate each of the vast or limited spaces with their artworks, accommodated in the interstices and nooks or assuming a more direct possession. The objective for Sophie Auger-Grappin – who is occupying the site for this exhibition, the first under her direction – is to see it better, to broach it poetically, to recall history through some of the stigmata of its past activities.
For the occasion, many artworks have been created. A fan of “living sculptures”, Hélène Bertin was assigned the overhaul of the reception area. Designed to remain beyond the exhibition period, this space, under the title Marchelire & Corbeilleboire (2018), has been transformed by the artist into a place of discussion, rest, or consultation, where anyone can curl up in the furniture with anthropomorphic ceramic feet that she designed and drink from the mugs that she made. The feeling of a warm hearth is also convoked in the very discreet room by Elsa Werth. On the floor of the ground floor, the plan in chalk of Titre deux à usage unique (2016) recalls a schematic drawing of a fringed rug. Through a simple gesture of translating rectangular shapes, the artist thus oscillates her design between a habitual object and a Hard Edge abstract grid. The work also orientates the gaze onto a floor marked by the many past in situ artistic interventions, while the impressive installation by Jennifer Caubet enters into conversation with the metal beams. Held under tension between floor and ceiling, twenty-four javelins adorned with pieces in modular, hand-blown glass created during a residency at the Cirva (Marseille), are dotted about the space and play on the contrast of materials, between the fragility of the glass and the solidity of steel. The first occurrence of this “sculptural kit”, Espacements (2018) extends the research of an artist who literally seeks to experience space and its internal forces. A different approach to balance is offered by Anne-Laure Sacriste in the “grotto”, a split-level space cut directly into the rock, renovated for the exhibition, and which will soon be the subject of specific invitations. The installation We Are The Landscape Of All We Have Seen, Part II, Le Creux de l’enfer (2018) intimates research into judicious composition, with harmonious relationships between objects, inspired by the Japanese tradition of the art of gardens and Ikebana. The large ground-floor area is entirely devoted to Flora Moscovici’s intervention, who delivers an in situ pictorial composition with brushstrokes daubed over former picture rails, resonating with the natural environment. Colourful shades, from greens to warmer tones, reflect in cascade those of the landscape visible through large bay windows. Black Bivouac #7 (2018) by the duo Grout/Mazéas takes a different approach to this attention to the territory. The latest version of a series of videos centred on the theme of campfires, this sequence was shot in a château neighbouring Allier department, with local protagonists. Its narration explores the guiding themes of the exhibition, remembrance of the premises (the fire at the heart of the narrative echoes the activity of this former forge), the convivial experience, the perception of a site, and so on.
There was no doubt a kind of obviousness – in a space as singular and pregnant with a past that is both industrial and artistic – in presenting this kind of an inaugural inventory. In response to this curatorial invitation, each of the artists provides a powerful and unique response to the questions of territoriality, in situ exhibition, landscape, etc. While the artworks “speak” cleverly to the space, we might however regret that the solipsist character of this conversation is maintained to the detriment of the one that might also have been woven between them. Without being programmatic, in terms of the director’s future programming, this exhibition thus outlines a concern for promoting an encounter with the place and those who inhabit it, for local roots to be firmly established, which will notably be expressed by the upcoming establishment of residencies based on local skills and knowledge.