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Exhibition "Mirrors of the Living," 2022

Caroline Kennerson and Sophie Lecomte, both artists in their own right, share a profound fascination with the essence of life itself. Their collective body of work intertwines unlikely combinations from the realms of the animal, vegetable, and mineral, unveiling the subtle threads that bind us together. They meticulously probe the surface—the skin—as well as its deeper layers, harmonizing the inner and outer, the microscopic and the cosmic, to unveil the elusive yet fundamental aspects that shape our existence. Drawing inspiration from folklore, myths, and the visual language of science, their artistic creations offer a glimpse into our ever-evolving world.

Their art, crafted with meticulous patience, delves into the realms of intimacy, drawing attention to the fragility and interconnectedness inherent in all living species. These intricately woven universes beckon us to ponder upon our position within the grand tapestry of existence—an introspective journey that resonates profoundly within the context of our present times.


Chimeric Genetics

Caroline Kennerson delves into interspecific phylogeny, delving into the study of relationships between living species. Merging art and science, the artist forges her unique genetic narrative by reinterpreting medical images (MRI, scanners, X-rays) or cellular sections observed under the microscope using mediums such as paint, ink, pencil, ballpoint pen, markers, or felt-tip pens. This art seamlessly blends fiction with real imagery, projecting emotions onto empirical elements. Concretely, Kennerson's artistic play with scientific representation materializes through animal cells appearing on human X-rays and vice versa. In her installations, the artist goes as far as replicating certain scientific devices—such as her round-shaped wall negatoscopes. Her experiments in hybridizing animals and humans, and even plants, aim to reveal certain similarities between species conventionally considered distinct. Kennerson intends not only to unveil the poetry of these bodily particles but also their undeniable connection to our emotions: in her explorations of the infinitesimally small, she delves deep into our flesh, probing our most buried mysteries and vulnerabilities. She reminds us that, much like our cellular system, whose functioning remains partially elusive despite advancements in science, our profound and intimate reality remains largely unknown. Perhaps it is through the experience of otherness, encountering the Living that mirrors us, that we may truly discover ourselves.

Nora Hubert

Art Absolutely, Special Edition

61 Artists, Discovering Talents


Phylogeny of Utopia, Caroline Kennerson

Phylogeny (from the ancient Greek "phylon," meaning "race, tribe, species") is the study of relationships between living beings. Also spelled "philogeny," the term takes on a philosophical, even metaphysical, dimension resonating with what unfolds beyond, beyond the realm of sensible appearances.

Through this exhibition of recent works encompassing drawings, installations, and sculptures, Caroline Kennerson invites us to physically and mentally contemplate the interdependence between animal species (considering humans as a particular type of animal) and plants. Etching fish or rat cells onto human X-rays or human cells onto dog X-rays, occasionally incorporating plant cells for their formal richness and suggestive motifs, the artist grasps notions of hybridization, chimeras, imaginary genetic manipulation, and artifacts.

The artifact appears to be the linchpin of this meticulous work, both in conception and execution, subtly blending the distancing from medical representations that form the foundation of the pieces and the fierce desire to delve into the heart of the living, organic matter, to delve into their secrets as much as their poetry. Art and science converge in this word itself: the artifact of medical imagery allows the full play of the artist's visual artifact!

The body is thus summoned here, the human body, the animal body, even the social body, through this essential, simultaneously gentle and forceful interrogation of what binds and separates species. To embody, what does it mean? And what constitutes embodiment, for each of us, for all of us?

Medical images (MRI, scanner, X-rays) or cellular sections observed under the microscope are chosen primarily for their associations between human, animal, and plant motifs. The artist appropriates the concept and figure of arborescence—specifically pointed out in neurology's vocabulary and more broadly within neuroscience. The neuronal network consists of collections of neurons (several tens of billions in a human brain) closely interconnected—referred to as a "clique," reminiscent of a troupe or herd in human and animal organizations—and empty spaces between them (metaphorically termed "cavities" or "clearings" by some researchers). This complex organization, akin to fractal geometry, is reimagined by the artist, progressively contaminating medical imagery, reinventing it using multiple mediums: paint, ink, pencil, ballpoint pen, marker, felt-tip pen. Mixed techniques are favored for the small square formats of the Portraits series or for playing with brilliance and invisibility angles of observation for the Impressions series. The goal is to blur the image, the paths of perception and understanding, which could be overly literal.

Scientific devices are replayed, outplayed by the artist: she etches with a needle (considering how medical vocabulary and that of art and craftsmanship converge when referring to needles, sewing, sutures, tissues…) recreates round-shaped wall negatoscopes or a backlit table, as if the vertical plane of medical cabinets were brought back to the observation of petri dishes on the horizontal benchtops of laboratories (especially in the Chimera and Going Green series), while traditionally, drawing is observed on both planes.

The artist's and the viewer's gaze thus shifts from the skeleton to the organ, from the skull to neurons, from bone to brain tissue cells, from vein to chlorophyll molecule, from structure to filling: from what holds, what maintains to what constitutes matter, what constitutes embodiment, in essence.

The play with scales, orders of magnitude, lies at the heart of the artist's approach, proposing, imposing an observation from scale 1 to the microscopic, bridging the macro to the micro, as the gaps are immense, and references are disturbed.

Another notable disruption in the conception and production of the works concerns the engraving methods in Caroline Kennerson's pieces: she executes them from memory for the series of the same name but uses models for all others, to reinforce the coherence of the utopian discourse on phylogeny, which deepens over time. The series Blue Like an Orange thus gathers hyper-realistic drawings of vitamin C cell images, always colored in blue by scientists even though it could easily be in another hue. Starting from this artifact of dye chosen by biologists, the artist draws attention to the poetic, surreal nature of the image and its meaning by invoking in its title a verse from Paul Eluard: "The Earth is blue like an orange," extracted from the poem titled The Earth is Blue, published in the collection "Love, Poetry" in 1929.

Caroline Kennerson thus creates a back-and-forth between the magic of invention, gentle reverie, and stark reality: the interior of organisms, usually discreetly concealed from sight and exploration for ordinary mortals, the reality of disease, degeneration, the body in general, and more singularly, the brain. Delving into one's depths, into the bowels of the living, always touches upon profound existential anxieties: the fear of death and oblivion, of oneself, of what constitutes our being, our humanity too. And as always when it truly concerns intimacy, that of the body, bodies, it is also about violence; attraction and repulsion; emptiness and fullness, abyss, and plenitude.

By evoking at times the wild development of cells, even their uncontrollable frenzy, the artist subtly suggests that, ultimately, we are always and absolutely strangers to ourselves, regardless of the excellence of scientific knowledge and technological mastery. Or when science, rationality do not teach us the essential. Hybridization would then serve as a secret promise—perhaps not as utopian as it seems—passing through the other, this greater stranger yet, to discover a fragment of oneself.

Aurélie Barnier 2018

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