Art begins with transmutation and continues with metamorphosis.
Henri Focillon

A stone standing by the side of a road, a funerary monolith or a votive piece of wood, a stela has the beauty of a page of writing, the enigmatic presence of a decisive encounter; in Latin, it’s also a star.

Evi Keller’s steles are luminous fragments of a Whole in perpetual becoming, Matière-Lumière, a veritable world-work. For several years now, the artist has been working in solitude, like a monk meditating in the recesses of a cave, entirely devoted to the ongoing work that is Matière-Lumière. Following in the footsteps of her predecessors, Joseph Beuys and Mark Tobey (one might also catch a glimpse of Fautrier’s Hostages, or a painting by Sam Francis), Evi Keller magically transforms external materials into substances of her own, bringing together the 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, but a return to an ancient practice, the transmutation of elements. In the words of Henri Focillon, the artist who delves deeply into the mysteries of creation “constructs for himself a physics and a mineralogy; he is first and foremost a craftsman and an alchemist; his palms are black and torn, by dint of measuring himself against what weighs and what burns”. Evi Keller’s works are certainly paintings, photographs, sculptures and videos, but they don’t belong to any known genre. These saturnine, solar pieces are above all pieces of matter transfigured by light, vile lead turned to gold.


From ancestral civilizations – Babylonian, Assyrian, Chinese – Evi Keller rediscovers the sacred function of the threshold and the passage. To institute the sacred is first and foremost to define a limit, to establish a space of transition (door, column, arch, peristyle), to inquire into sensitive places where the influx of things and beings can be experienced.

Evi Keller erects steles in our path, inviting us to enter another space, another time.

Come closer: these are miniature, molten worlds; twigs, bark, bones, cobwebs, facial features, starbursts. These living, vibrant surfaces sometimes evoke Victor Hugo’s cosmic inks, and even more surely the wall of damp stains and colored stones that Leonardo da Vinci advised painters to contemplate in order to see all possible figures appear, battle scenes, rivers, trees, mountains…

When Victor Segalen discovered the stelae forest of Xi’an, he recognized the work of the Han civilization in these wooden pieces erected on either side of the grave for the burial of a coffin.

A thousand years earlier, steles were stone sacrificial poles, also designed to measure the moment of the sun with the passage of the shadow. Not the external light, but the revolution of an inner light, the “star is intimate and the moment perpetual” wrote Segalen. Evi Keller’s steles also share a common quest for memory with the fascinating orphic gold lamellae, with which they possess surprising affinities.

Matière-Lumière [Stèles], ML-V-20-0709, detail, 2020

For in the tombs of ancient Greek initiates, there were delicate little sheets of engraved gold, folded in half, with instructions for the journey to the afterlife. To decipher the texts incised on the material, they refer to the Mnemosyne spring from which departing souls must drink. On a flake from the 3rd century B.C., discovered in Crete, these few lines, a secret poem of the soul:

I burn with thirst and I faint: give me then
water from the perennial spring on the right
right, where the cypress is. – Who are you?
Where do you come from? – I am the son of Earth and
of the starry sky.


On these steles – burning pages won over by an inner fire, thin layers of bluish ice, where sometimes a spot of blood blackens – Evi Keller writes the memory of primordial elements, the water of springs and rivers, the fire underground, the earth of forests, the air of the sky. This memory links our body of water and carbon to the galaxy’s most distant stars.

It’s an ancient journey that’s only just begun.

Olivier Schefer

Solo exhibition of Evi Keller
March 20th 2021 – July 17th 2021
Jeanne Bucher Jaeger | Paris, Marais
5 rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris

Video Stèles 2021

Selection of works