Relational Constructions
Julie Crenn, 2012

En Fr

The latest works of Laurent Ajina mark the beginning of a new stage in his art. Until now, Ajina's work has been uniquely identified by Site Specific Drawings on the walls of various exhibition spaces that he transforms with his black paint markers. Plaster, paint, or cement... networks of lines stretched across the walls come together to define the environment. Existing lines are extended creating a temporal graphic web that entwines both artist and space.  The rhizomic compositions interpret the dynamic, intense relationship between Ajina's body and the space that it occupies. Today he is taking his drawings beyond the walls and creating a series of works that expresses his relationship with space, the environment, infrastructure, and memories.
Ajina absorbs the geography and topography of the cities he travels through. He walks along unknown paths examining surrounding territories, extracting the images that strike him. As he sat at the base of the Sandkogel mountain in Austria in 2010, he began feverishly drawing the lines and forms before him. "I always have the same approach. When I travel, I look for the most opportune locations. When I find one, I begin rapidly drawing the image before me, obsessively recreating the same motif one after another by the hundreds.[1]” Eighty sheets of graph paper; an exercise of repetition progressively engraving the image in his mind.  It's a matter of rhythm and mastering the strokes. Once the sheets of paper are reunited, the original motif is set into motion and is transformed by the artist's efforts. The title of the works calls us to Come Closer and examine the lines that float and move. The mountain fades away leaving in its place a series of drawings whose progressive modulations testify to the rigorous and breathtaking relationship between the artist, his subject, and the paper.
The motifs used by Laurent Ajina are always inspired by what he has seen. He takes his inspiration from the city and his immediate surroundings to visually express his relationship with space. In 2011, on the terrace of a castle in ruins in Naples (Palazzo di Capua), Ajina laid pieces of unfolded cardboard across the ground. Ersatz (Palazzo di Capua) is the graphic translation of the artist’s visual and psychological vibe faced with the ruins of this ancient neopolitan baroque palace in a profoundly inspiring city; a city littered with these ersatz of times which have long since faded away. The artist forges a path through them all. He slips his way into the crevices of the past to bring forth his contemporary vision of times long gone. Lines define the decrepit nature, the physical and emotional attachment that he has for this landscape that has been weathered with the time. Ruins that invite the observer to walk along its lines so that everyone can find their place in this augmented space. The cardboard work is not set to remain in Naples, it is scheduled to be presented in new cities, new countries, and new landscapes that the artist will be faced with. The precarious material, ersatz of the consumer society we live in, was initially designed to transport merchandise, and will retain its transient characteristic as the exhibit travels from one place to the next. "It will therefore be a ruin, a piece of archeology, a transported fragment" as it journeys from one city to the next.  It involves a work of encrustation and the relationship between the territories and the temporalities. A nomadic approach that makes one recall the psychogeographical concept developped by Guy Debord in the 1950's.
Psychogeography could set for itself the study of the precise specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals. The adjective psychogeographical, retaining a rather pleasing vagueness, can this be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and even more generally to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery. [2]
Guy Debord has written that Parisian subway maps have a certain "beauty" because they are the "sum of possibilities" for anyone who is taking the subway. If we transpose this notion to Laurent Ajina's topographic and architectural surveys, we see that they are the sum of innumerable possibilities, malleable and shifting as they are subject to his experience with ever changing spaces and locations.
The second component opens up on works which are both autobiographical and political, allowing us to come a bit closer to the artist's background.  Without exposing himself or revealing all of the details, his works tell of his father's Iraqi origins, of a land symbolic of a fleeing world. Untitled (October 7, 2002 - September 12, 2002) 2012 is a visual and textual dialogue between representations of Iraqi landscapes produced from childhood memories and fragments of George W. Bush's speeches. "The words redefine the areas of the landscape where the memory of my travels as a child intertwine with the shadowy contemporary definition of this country in a world of sensationalized media-communication. "The past and the present, the artist’s history, and a country in reconstruction clash. On large canvases darkened by a work of successive passages demanding "extensive periods of time to apply, evaporate, and strip, similar to erosion in nature", the images of Iraq engrained in the artist's mind become one with the words of the man that disfigured it, both humanly and materialistically.  The whiteness and sharpness that have characterized Ajina's work until now make way for soiling, impurity, and darkness which all symbolically and physically express his efforts to recall the images and his commitment.
I was born in France in 1970 to an Iraqi father and a French mother. We lived in Paris. I have a vague memory of spending vacation at my grand-father's house in Najaf, then in Bagdad up until the 1980's when the Iran-Iraq conflict began. Two Gulf Wars then followed. I haven't been back for over thirty years. My father's travels as director of urban development in Africa (he was an architect by trade) fed my notion of mobility.
Just as he does with his wall drawings, Ajina brings to life a system of graphic networks which englobe stylised architectural elements along with the words of the former American president.  The obscure clouds that pass through the compositions recall the way the war tore through a country and a people, leaving them mutilated to this very today. Laurent Ajina creates a caustic criticism of imperialism and the exploitation imposed by Westerners who, based on the cowardly pretext of a national threat, went to war against a country to merely rob it of its resources. Ajina continues by stating: "The bits of sentences remain enigmatic without being specifically aimed at a country, speeches are cut, amputated of what made them intelligible in the literary sense of the speech. They become just as much legends of transition which set up the drawing mechanism as they are points of rupture, questions that get us nowhere.” A commentary made through a series of Black Stone pencil drawings, Ruins of Hypocrisy - 2012 when he made a concentrated effort to recollect memories from long ago.  Silted landscapes, bustling cities and buildings that Ajina discovered throughout his various childhood journeys.  The lines left behind by the Black Stone pencil on the sandy or brown paper resonate cries of a far off desert and the fantasy fueled by a fragmented memory, a family's history, and a traumatizing reality. The ruins of hypocrisy are the amalgam of the shock between Ajina's personal life and political beliefs, seen throughout the architectural networks.
Laurent Ajina produces a work relational as established by Edouard Glissant. He succeeds in bringing together various axes of reflection at a give point: the city, its history, its current state, and his own personal experience. The lines that he stretches across space on the paper, the cardboard, or the canvas create networks as he unravels first impressions, long considered critiques, and intuitive associations with memories of the past.
The notion of the trace goes against the grain of traditional thinking, and wanders forth, leading the viewer along its path. We recognize that this trace, this path, is what brings us together, no matter where we come from, and allows us to commune together. But this trace was once lived by a mere few in a place so removed, so distant yet so close, on the hidden face of the earth as a place of survival. […] The trace is neither an unfinished path that causes us to stumble as we move forward, not is it a dead-end alley along the border. The path goes into the earth where there will no longer be territories. The trace is an opaque expression that teaches wind and branch: to be oneself, derived.  It is the sand in the true disorder of utopia. […] It is the violent wandering of the thoughts that we share.[3]
Construction based on developing networks and relational deviations that the artist uses to illustrate how he relates to the world and its spaces, how he engages in a physical, graphical, and emotional dialogue. The works are the result of minimalist and substantial traces derived from an intimate conversation with a place that he prolongs or cuts short in temporary fusion.


[1] All of the quotations are exerpts from an interview with the artist in March 2012.
[2] DEBORD, Guy Ernest. « Introduction to a critique of urban geography » in Lèvres Nues, n°6, 1955, p.11.
[3] GLISSANT, Edouard. Treatise on the Whole World (Traité du Tout Monde) (Poétique IV) Paris : Gallimard, 1997, p.18-20.