Laurent Ajina's Art or the Measurement of the World
Sebastian C. Strenger, 2021
Between chaos and perfect order. This is how the paintings, murals and drawings on cardboard of the French artist Laurent Ajina can be described. The line plays the most important role as a basis. In his installations, Ajina explores spaces, places and their inherent structures. With lines and forms, connections and links, as well as his characteristic vocabulary, he opens up a new perspective for the viewer.
In his paintings on the ceiling, as recently in a palace in downtown Vienna, his meshwork applied with black marker appears like networks between overloaded chaos and the multiplication of different points of view. They are Ajina's interfering systems, which open up the space and which the artist then sometimes climbs onto a 5-meter ladder to paint overhead.
His installations include wall drawings, canvases, and large-scale works on paper, as well as modular small sculptural elements such as piled-up moving boxes, and oversized screens made of industrial cardboard. And it is always there, the line on the module, and across modules. It creates transitions to trigger chain reactions. And it is always there, the line on the module, and across modules. It creates transitions to trigger chain reactions. The line, with which Ajina first becomes a draftsman and at the same time becomes a sculptor through his endless network of visual references from Paris to Naples, Basel, Istanbul, Vienna, and New York, leads into a system that attempts to reconstruct and regenerate what real life is unable to accomplish in its interaction.
Recently, the international gallery Crone showed at its Vienna location Laurent Ajina's drawings, which are imbued with his architectural spirit. They are precise and clearly structured; they seem to spring from an inner order and to want to grow into infinity. His artistic practice takes Ajina around the world. Whether in Beirut, Dubai, Los Angeles, or the Vienna Woods, Ajina's works respond to their surroundings, blending current impressions with memories from long ago.
While his exhibition "Flushing M" in 2013 still had an autobiographical reference to childhood days with visits to his grandparents in Iraq, nowadays the artist has been focusing on other topics for some time. Seven years ago, as a Frenchman with Iraqi roots, it was initially his preoccupation with the war in Iraq. At that time, it became "a visual dialogue of my childhood memories of the landscape of Iraq and fragments from a speech by U.S. President George W. Bush. My memories of childhood travels through Iraq are overlaid with the contemporary definition of the country, generated also by sensationalist media communication. The sentences interspersed in the picture remain enigmatic, they are fragmented and taken out of the context of the speech. They form a kind of pictorial legend as a starting point for the drawing," says Laurent Ajina, referring to the memories before and after the fall of the then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the ending of the 3rd Gulf War on May 1, 2003 by U.S. President George W. Bush.
The recently completed exhibition "California_ LINE," on the other hand, reflected Ajina's long-standing connection to Los Angeles, where he has lived and worked on and off since the 1990s. In a new series of paintings shown for the first time, the artist complements his black line drawings with colored markings that reflect the city's auspicious hedonism, with its manicured gardens, flowering cacti and pools sparkling in the sun.
Now, it is not so much the real urban landscapes that interest the 50-year-old today, but rather the rhythm of a city or an urban space. It is the movements of people, but also route and line networks that public transport makes through the city and its urbanity. But it is also traffic signs and floor markings that depict a colorful cartographic network in the street structure as well as on the artist's large canvases. Neon colors and broad bands of color mark his new series of works, which mostly change from gray/black and anthracite/turquoise to blue.
In strong contrast to these color intense works on canvas are the drawings on cardboard boxes, which the artist presents lying on the floor or also folded into three-dimensional structures. The artist also used the line structures to take them with him on his travels as portable sculptures.
In the narrow alleys of Venice or on the stony hills of Greece, the artist integrates them into their surroundings, and they become part of the landscape or remain strange visitors in a larger environment. The motifs that emerge from this process are initially photographed by Ajina himself or captured on film, before his interventions are documented and shown in other places.
Ajina thereby creates a worldwide network of visual references at the mercy of infinity. Recently, his time in the Corona lockdown led him to form a global network with artists from his photographic oeuvre via Instagram, to whom he sends his cardboard drawings from then on so that they photograph his artwork in an ever-changing environment, and this will become part of his future exhibitions. His works have already traveled to about 80 locations - from Abu Dhabi to the other side of the world, from Canada to Australia.
Born in Paris in 1970, Ajina first studied at the University of Architecture Paris la Seine before dedicating himself entirely to the visual arts. Ajina's works have already been shown in numerous international solo exhibitions, including Paris, Berlin and New York, as well as his works are present in prestigious international institutions and private collections. Since 2006, he has realized over forty monumental wall drawings in both public and private spaces (see image). Today the artist moves with his center of life and work between Vienna, Paris and Los Angeles.
Most recently, he was a guest in Berlin to create a staircase painting connected to his ceiling painting in a conference room for the renowned architect's office Grüntuch Ernst in their property, a courthouse and prison in the old West Berlin district of Wilmersdorf, which will be ceremoniously presented to the public on the occasion of the AmtSalon taking place in February. The AmtSalon will then open its doors to 25 renowned Berlin galleries and their visitors for a period of three weeks.
Ajina's artistic position has an international presence. And so his murals adorn the walls of large private homes around the world, up to the main train station in Basel, the Parisian water tower Le CentQuatre, the French Château de la Crée or the Trident Grand Residence Building in Dubai's Marina as well as the Riebenbauer Studio in the former studios of the Wiener Werkstätte.
If one asks oneself today which are the points of reference in Ajina's artistic work, one hardly finds any comparability in art history, while the archaic architecture of the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid still allows the closest reference, that ultimately sees in the viewing of the artwork an " elegance of ordered complexity and the impression of seamless fluidity" (flowability), which also corresponds to the "natural systems”. Like Hadid, Ajina processes his memories of landscape types, city plans, and architectural forms, retrieving them and relating them to one another. As a result, these reveal an abstract structure of lines beyond a literary or documentary point of view, or, as Zaha Hadid's would say, "The most important thing is the movement, the flow of things, a non-Euclidean geometry in which nothing is repeated: a rearrangement of space."
While Hadid's architectural models were generally the Russian Supremacists and Constructivists such as Kazimir Malevich or El Lissitzky, the artist Ajina's work seems to have adopted El Lissitzky's credo above all: "I have worked the black and white scale (with flashes of red) as matter and fabric. In this way, a reality will be created that is clear to everyone." And it is possible that Ajina will soon be found back in Paris with his black marker line, if he successfully completes his discussions held for many years, for the implementation of a floor drawing from the entrance hall to the meeting room of the UNESCO building. There is still a lot to do - in measuring the world.
SEBASTIAN C. STRENGER - STUDIED ART HISTORY, ECONOMICS AND LAW IN BOCHUM. FOR MANY YEARS, HE HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST SOUGHT-AFTER JOURNALISTS INTERNATIONALLY FOR ART HISTORY TOPICS AT THE INTERFACE BETWEEN THE MARKET, POLITICS AND BUSINESS. AS A CURATOR IN THE FIELD OF CONTEMPORARY ART, HE WORKS FOR RENOWNED COLLECTIONS. HE HEADS THE EUROPEAN ART ASSOCIATION IN BERLIN. FOR ENSUITE, HE IS THE HEAD OF DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL ART & MARKET.