Jean Marie Borgeaud: La terre au corps / Musée Ariana, Geneva
October 17, 2014 – April 26, 2015
If Jean Marie Borgeaud (Geneva, 1954) became interested in the original medium of ceramics, it is because he found two-dimensional painting insufficient to express human subtlety and emotion in all their entirety. For it is indeed people who are central to the artist’s intention, in terms of their physicality, but also their philosophy, their emotions and their essential relation to the other.
This painter, who trained at the Geneva School of Fine Art, has a completely self-taught approach to ceramics and models imposing, slightly larger-than-life figures. With a freedom unhindered by technical constraints, he happily transgresses established rules, wrestling confidently and in an exhilarating way with the material, forcing it to transcend its limits. His fragile sculptures in their green (unfired) state are then moved to the base of a kiln that is subsequently built around them, directly on the ground. Fire, the artist’s key partner, is then used to develop the clay, leaving behind in its path smoke marks, scars and some of life’s other fractures, which are readily welcomed.
Endlessly seeking to develop his understanding of humanity, of people’s emotions, and their breathing, the sculptor uncompromisingly and without any morbid tendency dissects flesh and bone, organs and the skeleton, torsos and heads, men, women and animals, presenting then to us as a mirror of our own entrails. “I see bone as the crystal of humankind: a fantastic mineral structure that grows and develops inside our flesh, just like the crystal in the gigantic folds of rocks. The sensation of the skeleton arouses an awareness in me that generates a deep inwardness, both in my relation to the world and to myself.” We are drawn to his skulls with edges softened by a smooth celadon glaze, his twinned heads or his coloured sheep’s stomachs by their fundamental aesthetic, which cannot help but awaken our existential anxieties, at the boundary between life and death.
After exploring the smoke firing of clays at low temperatures, Jean Marie Borgeaud turned to stoneware, porcelain and then coloured cast glass, techniques that he developed simultaneously, alternately, without ever abandoning painting. His creativity and his artistic and personal journey are nourished both by Nature, which is close to his heart and all around him, and by the different cultures, philosophies and forms of spirituality discovered in the course of his travels or through literature. The East plays a key role in his work and he is fascinated by Africa; confrontation with and relation to the other are essential, but it is above all within himself that he seeks that which makes progress possible.
The Musée Ariana has nine of Borgeaud’s pieces in its collections, notably one of his first ceramic sculptures, “Man and Fish”, acquired in 1996. In 2003, the museum purchased two remarkable examples of the collaboration between Jean Marie Borgeaud and Hugues de Crousaz, for which the former modelled imposing fish placed at the top of recipients turned, enamelled and fired by the latter. A teapot with a cat-like animal drinking from its spout and a “baboon” box from the same series complete this ensemble and were donated by the collector Csaba Gaspar. The latter bequeathed one of his last purchases, a disturbing cracked head with its tongue sticking out (in defiance or from suffocation?). The faithful benefactor Gisèle de Marignac was in turn seduced by a grimacing skull that evokes the Vanities of the Renaissance and by a translucent and subtly marbled head of a woman, which will both be added to our collections.
Guided tours—On Sundays 19 October*, 2 November, 7 December 2014 at 11 a.m. On Sundays 11 January, 1 February*, 1 March 2015 at 11 a.m. *in the presence of the artist
Storytelling tours—On Sundays 2 November 2014 and 8 March 2015 at 3 p.m.
Sign language tours—On Sundays 16 November 2014, 18 January and 19 April 2015 at 11 a.m. and on Saturday 21 February at 2 p.m.
Tours for the visually-impaired—Touch tours of the exhibition (pre-booking necessary)
Film screening—“100 millions d’années après” (100 million years after), film about the firing of Jean Marie Borgeaud’s “Couple” (54’) by Enrico Pizzolato and Pius Zoll, screened continuously at the museum on Sundays 19 October 2014, 1 February and 26 April 2015
Concert—Piano recital by Claude Schaeppi Borgeaud—Works by Ernest Bloch, Zoltán Kodály, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Andrej Schtogarenko. Thursday 19 February 2015 at 8 p.m. 25 CHF, concessions 15 CHF (pre-booking necessary)
Echos de corps (Body Echoes): Dance performance—Dancers from the Catherine Egger studio will explore body-matter through the fire of the energy and the breath that kindles it, the fluidity of the liquids circulating inside us and the spirit of the earth from which we come. Sunday 1 March 2015 at 3 p.m. (admission free, subject to availability)
Exhibition closing—Sunday 26 April 2015 at 4.30 p.m. Guided tour of the exhibition in the presence of the artist, followed, at 6 p.m., by a musical performance (admission free, subject to availability)
Museum hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10am – 6pm.
T: +41 22 418 54 50
Musée suisse de la céramique et du verre
10 Avenue de la Paix
Above: Jean Marie Borgeaud, Têtes, 2006, Wood-fired stoneware, H 39 cm. Photo by Cyrille Girardet.