Paradise Lost
Exhibition held from November 21, 1995 to January 7, 1996 at the Grand Théâtre in Reims.

With this recent series, Janladrou does not depart from that which makes his paintings endure: a confrontation with the face of the canvas, always stripped of a frame, easel, and palette; in short, of all of the "artifice" of the painter.

Janladrou always discovers himself in the tabula rasa of the canvas. Thanks to a wealth of experimentation around this emptiness, which constitutes a will to abolish all technical and historical points of reference, he preserves the innocence of the canvas as long as he possibly can until at last, after complex experimentation, the true raison d'être of his approach to painting, of his rapport with art history and of the constancy of his concerns is revealed. This can be summarized succinctly as his approach to writing: Janlandrou constantly questions writing systems and reduces writing to the very letter, to its simplest expression and to its graphic quality alone.

The text therefore, is not meant as meaning but rather as meaningful, the same as any other sign. In fact, the same as any deed... this is a contradiction in terms which is even more unusual considering it applies to a painter who is on a quest for meaning, to find meaning where it would not be found. For Janladrou, it is about using his materials, his poetic vehicle of choice, to find a resolution of the dichotomy between form and content which too often hides language in the appearance of communication. This is why his painting looks at us from multiple focus points and why it asks us to look truly head-on if we are not to leave it transparent, as it can be. Therein lies its quality: seen head-on, in the present indicative especially, from close up or far away...

Patrick Hébert

The night is far spent, the day is at hand:
let us therefore cast off the works of darkness
and let us put on the armour of light.

Romans 13:12

Darkness, the stuff of sleepless nights, is at the core of this plastic art where Janladrou is suspended between form and meaning. One can see here some resemblance to the the twins of Lewis Carroll, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Be it one word or a hundred, Janlandrou focuses on the letter itself. And the meaning? "As for meaning, it is big enough to look after itself!"

With simple economy of execution he produces a secret universe; the spoken takes root in doubt and the unexpressed, perhaps even in the malaise implied by any confrontation with false appearances. For in false appearances there lies the possibility of fooling oneself, of seeing only useless and illegitimate risktaking. For in this, in wishing to transmutate codes of the undecipherable, lie danger and pretention. It is as though he has chosen to caress the forbidden. An unhealthy and fragile concern, guided by and towards meaning, seems to insinuate itself in a parallel fashion, despite the solid conception and execution of the project.

Is he beginning (once again) to work based on photocopies that set a precedent for creative genesis while at the same time shunning it? This is not a paramount issue considering the many initiatives which may or may not reach the final observer, taking into account even those combinations which can "dirty" the project itself, revealing or masking it. Hypothetically speaking, this game ought to be completely unaesthetic; it is as though anything goes as long as it respects the innate logic of the work, whether unbeknownst to the painter, against his will, or when it's not a matter of wanting to see too much. This game is a trap aimed at tightrope walkers and at those adept in the language of imagery.

This is present, nonetheless, in the most recent series by Janladrou: "Nothing" is missing, not even the gauge of the vacuousness of all language that might aim to reveal some secret. Janladrou is content to point out the necessity of paintings and the act of painting without hiding the multiple orientations which order his expression in the medium. This painting does not run off at the mouth; it is contemplative as it delves into this constant preoccupation lying between what is shown and what is hidden.

Like any origin-tracker, Janladrou voices a cautious mistrust of pithy Art History. His paintings, while sometimes abrupt in their approach, have the merit of retaining their solitary place through their constant refusal to make concessions. This lack of concession does not open doors to inaccessible Gardens of Eden; it aims --no small feat-- to destroy every preliminary and definitive assumption that would only sanctify itself through the codes of its dogma. These assumptions deliberately ignore the only tenable poetic proposal: to approach beauty as subtly and simply lit by a soul and a body.

Patrick Hébert

Exhibition held from January 9, 2002 to February 2, 2002 at the Théâtre de l'Hôtel de Ville in Le Havre.

Observing the work of Janladrou, we cannot settle for words alone, especially those words it is composed of. "Eyes exchange their light for the darkness of words" one reads on a Janladrou canvas. Yet while words are very prominent here and call out to us, they also contaminate all of the other elements invited into the work; they force them into their meaning. Everything rests on this "verbal alchemy" where form becomes sudden word, where each form and each chromaticism has been infused with breath (nocturnal breath...) which pierces it and moves beyond; which pierces, and amazes, us; which transcends us and catches us red-handed. Janladrou's paintings give birth to our sight, which cannot believe its own eyes; no longer knowing where the words end or where the world begins. And it is this world, its absoluteness and exclusion from any true figuration, which is then seen and shared. We have only this absoluteness left to us when all signs both affirm and attack each other at the same time; when forms in turn play with the signs and invite them to enter a still greater mystery.

Janladrou invites us to this disruption/revelation and immediately he grabs hold of what we have inscribed almost as if by accident (do we really know what we write?). He absconds with these signs and with the trimmings which dress and inhabit them and he covers or erases them, never ceasing to draw us towards greater meaning, never ceasing to sound this unbearable depth. Through his work, Janladrou breaks the habit of words, transfiguring them. When such a fragment is found again and appropriated by the base material, it is no longer a poem; it is no longer the immobilized, forever-fixed thing of one's own. It registers vertiginous movement and acquires a deep and unsettling strangeness, its energy renewed for another day. There is no longer a mirage but instead a truly real, truly happy, truly liberated presence.

As a result one could say that Janladrou generates "critical" work; but in it lies the criticism of a jubilatory nature which is content to renounce the gravity of its ostentation as soon as he assumes responsibility by allowing us to observe or read a certain extract or fragment. The text, while very eroded and reworked by the painter --sometimes to the point of illegibility-- is not figuration here. It acquires a new presence, an unexpected resonance. The text is abstracted, "extracts itself", freeing itself from our command and from the will to fix it in what would be a definitive meaning. The chromaticism of these redeeming surroundings is like another discourse that, while stripping us of the dust of poems --of these torn, tortured and remodeled scraps-- brings us the vertigo of sudden, extraordinary word which it is most fitting simply to embrace. These are words from the dawn of the world, when at last sight is brought to the work.

Since Janladrou erases meaning as much as he shows it, he is at his most solid in this purely plastic dimension, in this pure form and the pleasure it inspires, and in this joy, this faith, this happiness of tinkering over and over again with the new. In this place it isn't so much the spirit as the body of the letter which comes into his presence. The body of the letter is akin to the body itself, our body: "I have a deep need to manufacture objects, with all that that implies in terms of physicality and of occasional pleasure, of experimentation of media and different base materials. It is a practice that draws more on the body than on the mind " (1993 Catalog, in an interview by Bruno Sourdin). This is craftsmanship in all its glory: a work of the body, which first ruminates on the material, digests light as it wishes, and transfigures it. It is pleasurable, joyful work, a physical breed of painting which surprises and reorients the artist "working his field" as much as it does the observer finally exposed to the work.

Yes, we would truly be amiss to settle for words alone. That is to say that even the words that aim to circumscribe this body of work are also, in their deepest darkness, dumbstruck and inane. They are dissolved and confused in this wash of vertiginous chromatism which, ironically, they had presumed to describe. Vain are those words which try to unveil the framework which unveils them. All that is left, therefore, is this impenetrable, inalienable energy which explodes into the light of day and overcomes us. This is the very freedom which is unique to Janladrou's work, the freedom which suddenly assumes all of its "shades of mankind" and delivers us into happiness with just one glance.

Guy Allix
September-October 2001


It cannot be said that Janladrou touts a master painter, school of art or style trend as a point of reference.

He avows that his art is self-taught; it follows that his body of work, put to the test of reflection and research, thereby manifests a singular quality of its own, uniting talent, harmony and audacity.

From his first exhibitions in Saint Lô, Coutances and Caen in 1969, Janladrou has been well received by the media in Lower Normandy. Ever since, he has been a constant presence in local galleries and has built his renown over several exhibitions and biennial events in Normandy, Brittany, Paris, and most recently in the Czech Republic. Janladrou made alphabets his own --those elegant, refined and harmonic graphics-- by expressing the value of the words and phrases he knits together with passionate expression and patient analysis.

While mostly pure and combative black and white, the artist by no means rejects color. He looks for subtle or abrupt concordance while at the same time transmitting a message by force of meaning and form about the eye's permanence and pleasure. With its extra element of mystery and ritual, his work forms a never-before-seen and fascinating ensemble.

André Ruellan, Art Critic

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