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Jean Baptiste Janisset: Resurrecting Spiritual Connections Through Syncretic Symbolism
NCO 013

In a world increasingly fragmented and disconnected, French artist Jean-Baptiste Janisset creates a bridge between cultures, religions, and histories.

Born to a mother who was a medium, Janisset was exposed to the spiritual realm from an early age. This influence, combined with his studies at the School of Fine Arts in Dijon and subsequent travels to Senegal, Benin, and Algeria, has shaped the artist's distinctive approach to his work.

Janisset's artistic practice revolves around the creation of sculptural pieces that embody the essence of various religious and cultural traditions, drawing upon a syncretic blend of influences that range from archaic to modern. While on his journeys across the globe, Janisset delves into all sorts of spiritual practices: he visits places of worship, engages with parish priests and people of faith, and actively participates in rituals and ceremonies.

Janisset's fascination with spirituality extends to his interest in alchemy and the transformative power it represents. He incorporates lead into his work as a nod to the alchemical process of transmuting base metals into gold. However, his true focus lies in the other aspect of alchemy – the search for the elixir of life, a metaphor for the healing and rejuvenation of society. Janisset's art seeks to heal the wounds inflicted by industrialization and a loss of connection to our spiritual roots. By creating syncretic cultural melting pots through his work, he aims to inspire a more inclusive future for humanity.

N: Hi Jean-Baptiste, how are you and what are you working on these days?

J: Hello I am very well thank you. I am currently in residence in Cameroon in collaboration with Fraeme Project and the Fruit Company Endowment Fund. I bring back casts from churches in France to produce bronze compositions with the GIC Art foundry in Foumban. One of the works will be installed in the Nsimalen Sanctuary in Yaoundé. At this place the Virgin Mary will have made an appearance for 9 days in May 1986.

N: I would describe your work as a fusion of anthropology and magic. How do you feel about this definition? Would it be accurate?

J: Yes that's right. I have been collecting casts from places of worship for 8 years and then take great pleasure in making compositions between them. I currently have 150 patterns that I call Witnesses. I like to vibrate energies from different sources to produce symbolic energy centers.

N: You like to bring together symbols from various cults and belief systems. How do you balance respecting the original contexts of these symbols, while creating new, syncretic connections between them ?

J: I always do the casts with respect. If I do a casting in a cemetery, I say my prayers to thank and pay homage to the person. If it's in a church, I usually ask the parish priests and everything goes very well.

N: What is also interesting is how you blend symbolism from African traditions with Western religious iconography. It almost seems that you are attempting to restore some kind of karmic balance in light of Europe's colonial past and the attempt to erase "inferior" cultural beliefs. Can you tell me more about the geopolitical aspect of your work?

J: I try to communicate peace, love and spirituality.

N: Your creative process involves the use of a variety of materials, in particular lead. Can you explain the symbolic significance certain materials have in conveying your artistic message?

J: I love the properties of lead. So Magic! It was used to build the coffins of tribal chiefs in the age neolithic...

N: To conclude this interview, what is next for you?

J: I will be pursuing a residency at the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, France. It is a magnificent architecture built in 1101. I had the privilege of being able to cast a large number of patterns which I will design on a hay cart.

The inauguration is June 17, 2023!

All images courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Janisset.
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