Excerpts from the press review

« (…) If there is one artist today who carries on this quest for reconciliatory spirituality, the cosmic and microscopic preoccupation of Mark Tobey, it is probably the German artist Evi Keller, discovered a few years ago by the gallery Jeanne Bucher Jaeger. Her immense work, labelled under the single term Matière-Lumière (“Matter Light“), swarms with details and with stretching worlds, as in Tobey’s canvases. Evi Keller made Novalis’ ambition to “novelize the world” hers: to unify the finite and the infinite, the visible and the invisible, the nocturnal matter and the theophanic fire. When Tobey paints enigmatic color vibrations, atom-rains and floating clouds, he captures fragments of the universe in small windows. Evi Keller broadens the pictorial field by making her materials live within vast canvases covered with ashes and pigments, but also through photographs and videos; she also works on delicate, transparent pieces of plastic tarp painted in blue, black and gold, as crumbly as bark. From large to small, from small to vast, the work’s unity in the making is that of a body: not the particular envelope of the self, but the interior body, that of incorporated soul, and the external body of the cosmos with its multiple galaxies. The artist reminds us that our carnal matter is consubstantial with the universe: it is made of water, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. In “The Two Sources of Morality and Religion”, Henri Bergson remarked that it was constantly repeated that our body was very small in comparison with the universe, and yet “if our body is the matter to which our consciousness applies itself, it is coextensive with our consciousness, it perceives everything that we perceive, it goes all the way to the stars.”

Evi Keller’s work stands at the crossroads between the matter we are made of and the light in which ancient civilizations placed the supreme intelligible principle, the very sun of the living. In reaching back even further, since changes of scale are also temporal journeys, we would see Prehistoric humans animate, that is, give a soul, by way of torches and flashes of light, to the walls of the caverns and the ambient subterranean life. The first artists, drawing with “gold hands,” to take up François Warin’s beautiful phrase [2], are also the most atemporal ones – as are Mark Tobey and Evi Keller. Coming out of the Lascaux caves, Picasso remarked, as Warin reminds us: “Nothing better has ever been done… and none of us can do as well.”

In Evi Keller’s work: a sun soaks in the cave’s black water; blood filaments drip on gold leaves; a hard, granite wall evaporates into a light and fluid veil.
And while we were talking and looking elsewhere, the sun has been rising on the moon, revealing, as Hugo wrote, a luminous work that was patiently waiting in darkness. » (Olivier Schefer, ref. 1)

(…) For several years the artist has been working on her own, like the anchorite monks meditating in the folds of a grotto, entirely devoting herself to this long-haul endeavor that is Matière-Lumière. Treading the path of a few elders, Joseph Beuys and Mark Tobey among them, (one also seems to glimpse Fautrier’s Otages, or some paintings by Sam Francis), Evi Keller magically transforms external materials into actual substances, she gathers together scattered pieces of a diffracted world, the infinitely small and the infinitely large.

With her, art is no longer a game, a provocation or a performance; it renews an ancient practice, the “transmutation” of elements. According to Henri Focillon, the artist who enters deeply into the mysteries of Creation, “builds herself a physics and a mineralogy, she is first and foremost a craftsperson, her palms are black and torn from tackling weighty and burning matter.” Indeed, if Evi Keller’s works incorporate painting, photography, sculpture, and video, they do not belong to any known genre. These Saturnian and solar pieces are, above all, pieces of matter transfigured by light, simple lead transformed into gold.» (Olivier Schefer, ref. 2)

« (…) Through the interplay of light projections and sound variations, Keller applies herself to recreate the processes of natural creation: according to the movements and the intensity of the light beam, a variety of materials manifest themselves on the drawn canvas. The huge sheet that constitutes the body of her installation – floating cloth, wall, giant piece of bark – seems to go from being solid and mineral (rock, stalactites) to being liquid (oozing stones, boles of crystal and frost); fire also takes over and one is soon blinded by the black sun of Nervalian melancholy. We could, at times, have the impression that we are watching the wall covered with saltpeter, which Leonardo da Vinci urged aspiring painters to contemplate attentively so as to see new shapes rise. But it is a wall whose shapeless forms come to life, become wrinkled, unfold, and transform under our very eyes. (…)

It is, on many levels, an enigmatic and monumental work. Monumental in its psychic dimension, rather than merely colossal – an unhappy term that designates many current artistic practices seeking sensationalism and occupying space.

With Evi Keller, the immense world whispers in our ear. (…) » (Olivier Schefer, ref. 3)

« (…) We are deep into the dark night. There is no more line to enter the church Saint-Etienne du Mont, place Sainte-Geneviève. The nave itself is plunged in shadows. A light at the very end of the transept gives it a medieval depth. On a giant screen set up in its choir, extended by a plastic tarpaulin on the century-old slabs, Evi Keller’s mineral visions unfold. The place is conducive to mysticism, as are these moving images. As if Turner had been making video. Or is it our eyes that, hallucinating with sleepiness, exacerbate the spectral beauty of these waters, these tree shadows, this moon, this flake tearings? Samson, son of Manoah, conqueror of the Philistines, who, thanks to his extraordinary strength, now carries the church’s enormous solid wood pulpit, seems to be the most surprised of all. His unfathomable gaze seems to give all this an unexpected meaning: a sleepless night like a challenge to the black night of time. Dawn isn’t far off. » (Laurent Carpentier, ref. 4)

« ” Mystery” : the word constitutes a discreet leitmotif in Evi Keller’s answers while, on a freezing Sunday night, the artist holds forth about the Stelae (Stèles) which give their name to the exhibition that is about to open at the Jeanne Bucher Jaeger gallery. These delicate pieces with shimmering fluidity are a “mystery” indeed. Are they thin shining strips that could have been cut out of precious, imaginary geological concretions? Or barely tangible membranes where varicolored plasma pockets vibrate as if they were scales from a mythical creature? Or dice of a dreamed stained-glass window, whose surface would still be trembling from the glass-maker’s fire? Personally, I can’t stop myself from seeing, in these gems, avatars from the legendary Emerald Tablet — the stone plaque that, it was said, contained Hermes’ teachings, comprised of the alchemists’ tables of the law, the enigmatic key of hermetic science. I can’t stop myself from thinking about it because Evi Keller is, somehow, Hermes-like. (…) » (Damien Aubel, ref. 5)

« Like the goddess Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, who had to go through darkness to be reborn in the Springlight, Evi Keller reconnects with the buried memory of materials to lead her work towards light. Matière-Lumière is the only title she gives to her work, that unfolds in various media: sculpture, painting, photography, video, sound, and performance. Like an alchemist, the artist transmutes and sublimates a vibrant material and engraves a spiritual dimension into it, thereby creating an embodied, immediate relationship with and to her work that surrounds us like a living skin. From then on, her work, the very place of epiphanic apparitions, opens us up to an “other” dimension and connects us to a “living cosmos,” to use the phrase of anthropologist Edgar Morin. Her process subtly puts into play body and spirit in an echo of the perpetually moving world (…) » (Fanny Revault, ref. 6)

« A romantic disciple of the poet Novalis, a surrealist dreamer along the lines of Max Ernst, and a poisoner in the manner of Sigmar Polke, the German artist tries to incarnate the alchemical principle of the transformation of matter by light. Following various experiments (with ice, photography, and plastic), Keller came to elaborate vibrant, deep and enigmatic Matières-Lumières, dark hangings scraped and torn in the shape of dusty star coats, that seem burnt by darkness and night. Having unfolded on stage these gigantic translucent veils, the artist started by setting them as an ashen tryptich, expressive of a far-away, organic and vibrant Africa. She set this tryptich in front of an enormous reflection that looks like a celestial fire announcing Dido’s breathless death from love. The huge sculpture-costumes of the three characters (Dido, Aeneas, who also plays the great witch, and Belinda, Dido’s companion), endow the singers with a solemnity of archaic caryatids, as if they were powerlessly reliving a drama that had already played out. (…) » (Emmanuel Daydé, ref. 7)

« In the twilight, the encounter with the monumental veil that Evi Keller created for the domain is akin to an emotional shock, as the artist transports us gradually towards a somewhere-else, following the dramaturgy born of the staging of light. Planets appear, the silhouette of a wise man comes out, the shadows of Plato’s cave emerge, and everything ends up swallowed by darkness… So we listen, inside our bodies, to the sensations that submerge us in reaction to his human-sized cosmos, this window into ancient worlds and those yet to come. (…) » (Stéphanie Pioda, ref. 8)

« Chantal Colleu-Dumond sees in the work Matière-Lumière a return to the source, a rooting in a universal and cosmic existence, a vital momentum, a principle of hope. (…) » (quoted in ref. 9)


ref. 1 : Olivier Schefer, Art Interview, November 2020, Mark Tobey’s Cosmic Nests, Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger in collaboration with the Collection de Bueil & Ract-Madoux and the participation of the Centre Pompidou, excerpt

ref. 2 : Olivier Schefer, Exhibition Evi Keller, Stèles, 2021, Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Paris, excerpt

ref. 3 : Olivier Schefer, Nuit Blanche 2019, Landscapes burned by night, Evi Keller, or the art of origins, excerpt

ref. 4 : Laurent Carpentier, Le Monde, 4 October 2014, Une nuit blanche à marquer d’un coup d’aérosol, excerpt

ref. 5 : Damien Aubel, Transfuge, March 2021, Art and Matter. For over twenty years Evi Keller has been putting together, piece by piece, an esoteric yet powerfully sensorial body of work. Portrait of an initiate, excerpt

ref. 6 : Fanny Revault, Art Interview, March 2021, Fossilized Light, Fossilized Memory, excerpt

ref. 7 : Emmanuel Daydé, ArtPress, 15 March 2023, Matières-Lumières in Dido and Aeneas and the Black Monk, excerpt

ref. 8 : Stéphanie Pioda, BeauxArts, May 2022, Matière-Lumière, Art Season 2022, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, excerpt

ref. 9 : Alexandre Crochet, The Art Newspaper, 24 April 2023, Evi Keller receives the Carta Bianca 2023 First Prize, excerpt