Biography

Justine Blau was born in Luxembourg in 1977. Her art deals with the concept of Elsewhere (provided such a place still exists on Earth). She studied plastic arts at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, before receiving a Master’s degree in sculpture at the Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London (2008). The artist also studied the photography’s role in our complex world.

 

Justine Blau has become well known after her exhibitions Ecotone at the CNA in Dudelange (2009-10) and Moving WorldsTriennale Jeune Création (2010) at the CarréRotondes. These intriguing works focused on the technical realisation as well as the subject, thanks to large assembly installations of three-dimensional and floor-standing photographs called Somewhere Else. Later, Justine Blau used the Internet to find pictures based around the theme of travelling, the discovery of new territories, pristine territories, the unknown and exoticism. She uses search engines such as Google and enters words such as islands, paradise, elsewhere, etc. Then, she prints out the coloured pictures on paper, rematerialises them in the real world, before she incorporates them in fictional sculptures.

 

Much like a navigator and discoverer of new worlds wandering through the ages, Justine Blau has become an explorer of virtual reality: the gigantic globalised library where images are ubiquitous, labelling and „categorising the world”, but also deforming and imitating it. This concept goes hand in hand with the artist’s interest for the way foreigners are perceived in the western world and the creation of orientalism in the 19th century, a symbol of dreams and foreign countries during Romanticism. Justine Blau creates impossible landscapes, new imaginary worlds, new virtual realities, microcosms and terrae incognitae, thus questioning the cultural borders of the „imagined geography” concept theorised by Edward Said.

Justine Blau’s “photographic sculptures” are in line with the traditional photomontage in the history of art (lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters). Above all, they are visual constructions in relief, doors between nature and culture, imitations made through different deforming optical processes borrowed from the past: trompe-l’oeil effect, miniatures, panoramic-view effect, perspectives. The series “The Perfect Escape” (2008) focused on little idyllic landscapes set up in everyday urban spaces. The images found on touristic brochures handed out by tourism agencies are part of commercial images and try to match the idealised aesthetic of postcards, illusions and imitations, by respecting certain standards such as purity, beauty, paradise. Justine Blau helps us understand that the perfect escape is purely fictional.

 

The miniaturisation of the world can be found in the World in a box, alps (2011), which is currently featured in the exhibition Realfictions (Banque Internationale in Luxembourg, displayed until February 17). A rematerialised Swiss landscape that can only be found online by entering words such as “Suisse”, “Schweiz” and “Switzerland”. The result culminates in an archetypal idea of an untouched landscape cleverly set up in a curiosity display or museum-like vitrine, evocating the rarity of the exhibited object (collection, preciosity, model). This theatricalness of the world also suggests the ideas of loss and extinct species. With The circumference of the Cumanán Cactus (2010), a series of lightboxes commissioned by the city of Manchester for a train-station, Justine Blau used the representation of exotic landscapes depicted on posters and billboards made by the tourism, dream-selling and travelling industry. The Cumanán cactus (South America) and its large circumference (1,54 meter) was discovered by Humboldt in the 19th century. The work conjures up the quest for new territories and scientific explorations, The Grand Tour and even the birth of modern-day tourism.

 

The perception of the world and the Non-Europeans’ view of the city of Schengen inspired Justine to create an outdoor exhibition for the AICA’s Kiosk in Luxembourg entitled “Schengenland” (2011). “My inspiration comes from the mystical aura that surrounds Luxembourg (my place of birth). That is why I wanted to contribute to that mythical aspect of the country by creating these series of objects located between fiction and reality.” After doing some research, Justine Blau realised that there are no visual representations of Schengen. She decided to create all types of souvenir-related objects (mugs, plates, postcards), invent a fictional imagery (symbols, effigies, heraldry), therefore contributing to the visual and mental construction of Schengen.

 

Justine Blau’s work is always about doors between reality and the virtual, nature and culture, but also focuses on the quest for an elsewhere, the building of dramatised worlds, and more recently, the idea of a lost paradise through places dubbed “Paradis” and its animated video series Homo faber (2011) that can be viewed at www.justineblau.com

 

Text: Didier Damiani, Paradise and imitations, artist profile published in Kulturissimo, 2011.

Career

Master in Sculpture from the Wimbledon College of Art, London

  • 2015
    • The Circumference of the Cumanán Cactus, Cité de l’image, Clervaux.
    • Tous les chemins mènent à Schengen, Frac Lorraine, Metz.
    • Don’t Panic. A harmless exhibition, Cape, Ettelbruck
  • 2014
    • The adventure of a photographer, Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea, Rome
    • The Project, Galerie Bradtke, Luxembourg
    • The world is blue like an orange, Arendt & Medernach, Luxembourg
  • 2013
    • Subjective maps / Disappearances, a Little Constellation project, National Gallery of Iceland
    • Los primeros emprendores, Galerie Toutouchic, Metz
    • Los primeros emprendores, Centre d’Art Dominique Lang, Dudelange
    • DistURBANces, – LandEscapes, MNHA, Luxembourg
    • Landmark : The Fields of Photography, Somerset House, London
    • Anatomicals, Bergman Berglind Gallery, Luxembourg
  • 2012
    • DistURBANces, MUSA, EMOP, Vienne Noorderlicht Festival, Terra Cognita, Museum Belvédère, Oranjewoud

Interview

Creative process

Photos: Mike Zenari /AWC.

Art Scene