Jean-Luc Manz’s work follows a particular, indeed unique path through the geometrical abstraction movement that developed in and around Geneva and Lausanne from the 1980s on. His artistic endeavour incorporates an affective dimension proper to the references that comprise it. This anchoring point in reality is a strategy used by Manz to avoid yielding to pure formalism. The artist developed his appropriationist vocabulary after an initial period of non-figurative creation from 1974 to 1977. He moved towards geometry after coming into contact with new influences such as Chérif Defraoui’s studio and John M Armleder. He then discovered Cairo in 1992, where the popularity of decorative forms led his work to allude to elements drawn from reality, such as fabrics and mosaics. The colourful chessboard patterns of the series Bari’s Paintings (1998–9) and Bari’s Fields (1999) refer to the way fields are laid out in the Bari region, viewed from a plane heading to Egypt.
Heralded in a series of twenty-one drawings (1995, Zurich, Kunsthaus), Les pleurs de cendres is a series of seven paintings, the fourth of which is in the museum’s collection. All seven share the same composition, with alternating horizontal lines in two colours against a white background. All that changes are the two colours – in this case yellow and red. The series remembers the artist’s friend Chai who died of cancer at the age of thirty-one. Grief is not approached directly or with any great sense of tragedy. Instead, it takes the form of a melancholic allusion through the dialogue of the lines, in an ode to the encounter between two souls. The lines, rare in Manz’s oeuvre as a whole, refer to the Canadian-American artist Agnès Martin, his aim being for Les pleurs de cendres to recreate the emotion felt on seeing her canvases, and to Richard Paul Lohse. This series of paintings is a homage to a loved one, an all-too-brief encounter, recording a sense of life and loss and the tangible presence of memory and its infinite expanse.
Nicole Schweizer (ed.), Jean-Luc Manz. Peintures 1984-2010, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 2010 (Binding Sélection d’Artistes 35).
Lionel Bovier and Gilbert Vincent, Jean-Luc Manz. Pleurs de cendres, Lausanne, Galerie Patrick Roy, 1996.
Catherine Quéloz and Dieter Schwarz, Jean-Luc Manz, exh. cat. Winterthur, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Geneva, Halle Sud, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1988.