The impact of Pierre Julien’s works lies in the way that they skillfully play tricks on the mind. By taking up the practice of illusion-making, his visual hypotheses simultaneously seek the viewer’s active participation and detached contemplation. Rooted in the present moment, the resulting works transport the viewer to a universe abundant with forms, movements, lights, colours and sensations. Central to the exhibition In the Deepest Oceans is a series of circular works executed with vibrant variegated colours that echo one another. The round format alludes to the microscopic fragment or an explosion, with the attendant oscillations made visible in fluorescent colour. The granular relief of these works, their iridescence and the title of the exhibition hint at figurative references: a slick of water, a light scum, or the vague outline of a sandbar or coral reef. Elsewhere, one sees the undulated surface of the Moon or the smooth bark of a tree.
These subtle apparitions can be seen due to modulations of ambient light on the textured objects, an optical device resulting from the various colours’ interactions. The discrete phenomenon of communion and vibration – whereby nothing disappears or is mitigated, and there is only constant renewal – is found in the artist’s desire to bring formal concreteness to our mutable experience of colour while at the same time eulogizing it.
Pierre Julien’s works are not invested in colours’ symbolic or emotional equivalences or the idea of the autonomous work of art. Rather, these works show affinities to retinal phenomena that appear suspended mid-air. With his practice, Pierre Julien joins a long line of scientists, philosophers and artists fascinated by the mechanisms of colour perception. Moreover, a poetic and personal approach to ways of perceiving and feeling colour’s diversity serves as a continual source of inspiration to the artist: over the years, he has found success synthesizing the formal preoccupations of op art with references to popular culture, such as the use of fluorescent pigments, plaster and spray paint.
Fortified by these affiliations, Pierre Juilien’s works are uniquely expressive, thanks in no small part to the stimulating and vibrant presence that extends over the three-dimensional objects. The tension between the materiality of colour and the works’ ephemerality accounts for the viewer’s sudden seduction by the work. These same works demonstrate the “call effect” of painting, to borrow from the art theorist Roger de Piles , which is comparable to the experience of a “coup de foudre,” or love at first sight.