Liquid and Magnetic Radiation
Hours 12:00 – 19:00
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
The Mass is pleased to present Seb Janiak’s first solo exhibition in Japan.
In a photographic career spanning over 30 years, Seb Janiak has explored a remarkably diverse range of areas. From his matte paintings with their revolutionary new techniques and unique perspectives, Janiak has successfully preserved a sense of cohesion while covering the full range of possibilities offered by photography. Janiak started out as a young freelance graphic designer without specific aspirations to be an artist, who wanted above all to give free rein to his curiosity and to experiment with a piece of equipment which he discovered by chance and which opened up the possibility of creating stunning images.
In 1987, images could be created and digitally enhanced using Quantel Paintbox. Janiak was one of the very first people to extend its use beyond the TV and film applications for which it was originally designed in order to produce photographic images for exhibition. In these photographs, scenes of unbridled fantasy were reconstructed with a hitherto unprecedented degree of realism. This marked the dawn of a new photographic esthetic. A variety of different shots taken all over the world could be assembled digitally into large- format images conjuring up a sci-fi world suffused with the staggering transparency of photography. This new style of image would become the staple fare of the next two decades, but Janiak’s achievement lay in being the first to create them.
Seb Janiak is a pioneer, spurred on by a restless desire to observe the world, challenge it and apply his artistic skills to reshaping it. He has an unquenchable thirst for everything that supplements our understanding of reality, opens up new perspectives and creates meaning. Whether he is dealing with institutionalized phenomena (religion, science, and astrophysics in particular) or niche areas (esotericism, ufology) his imagination draws on humanity in all its boundless diversity, transcending time and place. An overview of his work is instructive in this respect.
The success of his early digital photos was followed by a meteoric rise in the world of advertising in 1995. He made a seamless transition from still images to video and the most influential musicians quickly approached him to direct their music videos, including Daft Punk, Janet Jackson, and Robbie Williams.
In 2005, after ten years of frenetic activity, major health problems forced Janiak to make radical lifestyle changes. At the height of his artistic powers, he resumed his experiments with photography, free from the constraints of commissioned work. Drawing inspiration for his work from a variety of sources over the years such as traditional oriental texts including the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the history of Western art, Janiak created strikingly powerful ensembles in which human figures were replaced by nature and ideas.
Since 2009, Janiak has set new parameters on this research by restricting himself to the techniques of analog photography, namely double exposure, superimposition and photomontage.
—Paul Frèches, former gallerist and curator, currently cultural attaché at the Consulate general of France in Shanghai.
The perpetual struggle of the forces in action (those of gravity and fluid dynamics) between two fluids — one liquid and one gas — poses the question of pure form. The revealing of this struggle proves that what we actually see can be seen only via its environment. Form itself does not exist as such without the universe which surrounds it, without the knowledge / information which gives it shape, as the adage “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form” reminds us.
It is always useful to quote what follows in the text:
“In absolute terms, the world has no real or concrete existence. The relative aspect is the world of phenomena, and the absolute aspect is emptiness. Phenomena occur in a process of interdependence between causes and conditions, but nothing exists in itself or by itself. The direct contemplation of absolute truth transcends all intellectual concepts and all duality between subject and object.”
Given that vacuity does not empty things of their content since it is their true nature, I again used here the technique of lighting by reflection from the environment. For the bubbles in this series, a liquid was used together with a valve system connected to a compressed air canister. The viscosity of the liquid acts to slow down the changes in the pressure forces involved. Each bubble is thus compressed beneath the one above.
Magnetic Radiation (2011 – 2012)
For the Magnetic Radiation series, it was the use of a ferrofluid liquid which was the obvious choice. This liquid laden with ferric nanoparticles enables us to visualize a magnetic field as it curves to follow the force lines of the magnetic field generated by powerful magnets. The set-up was designed so as to modulate the power and the spacing of several magnetic fields in parallel or in opposition, or both at the same time. Since the liquid is jet black, it is only possible to illuminate it by reflection from its environment.
This can be described in terms of a “revelation” in the sense that the hidden realm is revealed in images. The natural aesthetic result refers back to the creation of the universe when magnetic fields shaped matter, atom by atom to provide a structure, so that 14 million years later we have become what we are living, thinking beings.
Technical Note: There are no changes made to the colors, no retouching or special effects applied to the image in post-production. As of 2009, Janiak has set new parameters on this research by restricting himself to the techniques of analog photography used since 1850, namely double exposure, superimposition and photomontage inspired by pioneers of photography such as Henry Peach Robinson, Édouard Baldus and Gustave Le Gray.
Seb Janiak The Kingdom
Limited Edition of 100 copies
42 x 26 cm
Text in English and Japanese
Mimesis Silk Scarf
Limited Edition of 5 Mimesis (12 scarves per motifs)
Soie 100% Silk, Hand Rolled Hems
94 x 94 cm
Made in France, 2019
Special Order (4 weeks)
© Seb Janiak, Liquid 01, 2014