JÖRG GESSNER : THE STORY OF A WHITE SHEET
You will discover the story artist Jörg Gessner shares with us on the pages of a wordless novel. This tale is both his story and that of another culture, another civilization. It is while living and traveling through Japan that the designer met one of the greatest dynasties of Japanese paper-makers.
The washi ritual
Washi? This story could be an adventurers novel, that of a secret: the secret of manufacturing quality paper, which belonged exclusively to the Chinese and Japanese cultures right until the 8th century, when it was mastered by the Arabs. But this story could be that of the country of the rising sun as well. And as the sun rises over these lands, the men and the women of Japan discovered before the rest the true face of light.
The immaculate sheets that compose Jörg Gessner’s silent novel translate, nevertheless the memory of the light spectrum evolving over time. Declined in the most delicate shades, this silent tale will immerse you far beyond the production and into a process involving knowledge, method, rhythm and style, in other words a ritual, resulting in the creation of the washi.
It is impossible to reduce the making of washi into a simple act of manufacturing, or a simple technical ability. Impossible as well to constrain washi masters to the artisan category. What takes place during this protocol is deeply influenced by its relationship to the world surrounding it, and knowledge transformed into tradition. Indeed, the path that leads to this secular washi binds men to their land. It is on this land that the paper mulberry which provides the fiber crop grows. Rinsed, dried and gathered, the various bush barks undergo an elaborate treatment. The papermaker heats, beats and kneads thoroughly the fibers until he obtains a delicate layer of white fibers. Then, once again, the nourishing land provides him with the purest source water used during rest of the process. From a layer to the next, gestures follow one another: dip, movement, flow.
As time passes, water circulation slows down, and hand movements go along gently with this birth, they give life to the fibers and the bonding of the layers. Pressed and spread over the wooden flatbeds, the fibers mold strongly together as they dry. The sheet becomes one.
Quest for the essential
Once we have described the ceremonial ritual taking place in the silence of a lingering day, what we have left to do is to apprehend the particular essence of this human invention created from nature to accompany our discovery of the world. In his book The paper Road, Erik Orsenna retraces this breakthrough in human history and Jörg Gessner provides us with a whole different understanding of this history which, as we know it already, is one without words or signs. On the other hand, it leads us through a sensitive approach to light. In a society that has manage to reveal a “Praise of Shadows”, (« In Praise of Shadows ») the principles of the infinitesimal are present everywhere, all the time: in the delicate contour of the stone, in the discretion of a politesse sign, in the contemplation of a temple, in the subtlety of light beams. But this time we are here, Jörg Gessner’s overlapped, shifted and suspended washi aspire to be this minimal art that leads us to self-restraint and silence.
Even though Jorg Gessner’s career as a designer requires him to allay, on a daily basis, form and function, with this exhibition,he shifts towards the path of the essential and that of the principles he discovered in Japan. It will be then a matter of light, shades, sensibility, but also of a fundamental quest.
This tale is not written. The sheet remains clean, but it carries within itself, within each and every one of its fibers, memories to be discovered.
Korean artist Lee Ufan said in 2011 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York: « What we see here is questioning the idea of civilization ». Visit the show at Galerie Fatiha Selam with this idea in mind.
Claude Guibert (2014)