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The Fondation d'entreprise Hermès presents works by artists who have taken part in its residencies
Installation view.

PARIS.- The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès presents Les Mains sans sommeil, a group exhibition of works by artists who have taken part in its Residencies programme in Hermès workshops over the past three years.

Since 2010, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has invited visual artists mentored by leading figures on the contemporary scene to discover the exceptional artisan skills practised at the Hermès workshops, mainly in France.

The annual programme gives artists complete creative freedom to devise and produce new works using the finest materials (silk, leather, silver, crystal) in collaboration with the workshop artisans. Each residency is a unique creative adventure, challenging artists to re-locate their practice in a completely new context. Two examples of the work are produced: one remains the sole property of the artist, the other enters the collection of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, for display at the workshops and worldwide.

The mentors of this second cycle of residencies in Hermès workshops are: Jean-Michel Alberola, Ann Veronica Janssens, Richard Fishman.

With: Bianca Argimon, Jennifer Vinegar Avery, Clarissa Baumann, Lucia Bru, Io Burgard, Anastasia Douka, Célia Gondol, DH McNabb, Lucie Picandet Curator: Gaël Charbau

At Palais de Tokyo, the works produced by the nine artists who have taken part over the past three years in the Residencies programme of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès are being accompanied by other works by these same artists, so as to show the context in which they fit.

With Les Mains sans sommeil, the curator’s aim is to focus attention on the movements and gestures he has observed through his conversations with artists and artisans who have taken part in the last three years of the Residencies programme in the Hermès workshops.

“Through my conversations with artists and artisans who have taken part in the Residencies programme in the Hermès workshops, I’ve come to see the importance of non-verbal communication: the actions and postures that are essential to the communication of knowledge, feelings and emotions in the workshops. The most immediate, striking example is definitely the Saint-Louis crystal manufacture, where the noise level prevents the master glass-makers from communicating verbally. Visitors to the site are always struck by the precise looks and attitudes with which the artisans communicate: a kind of timeless choreography, dictated by the pace of the crystal-making process. The artists I’ve visited, in the worlds of fine metal-work, leather-work, crystal and textiles, have all shown an immediate interest in this very special expertise: a sensory knowledge first and foremost, and an intellectual or spiritual knowledge second. This is what I wanted to show in Condensation, the previous exhibition retracing the first four years of the Residencies programme under the aegis of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, held at the Palais de Tokyo in 2013: the aim was to highlight the quasi-alchemical fascination exerted by the slow transformation of the raw material, an experience shared by the participating artists and artisans.

With Les Mains sans sommeil, my aim is to focus attention on the movements and gestures I have observed, which enable the metamorphosis of the raw material to take place – not only conscious gestures, the result of deliberate ‘mind-to-hand or mind-to-body’ coordination, but the acquired autonomy of the skilled hand in particular, which acts as if ‘detached’ from the mind’s control. Artists and artisans are the repositories of this phenomenon. They take parallel, perfectly complementary approaches: artisans transmit gestures guided by expertise, while artists invent forms traversed by a spirit of laisser-faire.

This freedom can be seen, in the large number of works presented at Palais de Tokyo, as an autonomy given to the gestures themselves, whether it is stretching out a spoon to turn it into a long silver wire (Clarissa Baumann), or deploying abstract figures across forty metres of silk (Célia Gondol), deconstructing the shapes and colours of a pattern (Bianca Argimon), imprisoning a kinetic motif in a block of crystal (DH McNabb), or pouring cement into a fine envelope of crystal (Lucia Bru), conserving the traces of machines which are perceived as being creatures (Anastasia Douka), or else, metaphorically, creating tools the uses for which need to be invented (Io Burgard), freely assembling textiles off-cuts to produce a fabulous bestiary (Jennifer Vinegar Avery), or depicting, with vast leather surfaces, a symbol of infinity and of the regeneration of the soul (Lucie Picandet).

Alongside the works produced in the factories, the exhibition provides the possibility to discover other pieces from the artists’ corpuses, so as to show the context in which they are set, and to explore “the workshop gestures” that produced such works: repetitions, the forcing of chance, inscriptions and “activations” of the artist’s body. A programme of performances conceived by the artists will also take place in the space, during the entire length of the exhibition.” — GAËL CHARBAU

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