Ann Veronica Janssens: Light’s Ethereal Art

Celebrating immateriality: the evocative power of light in Ann Veronica Janssens' art.



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Light, with its reflections, chromatic shifts, and temperature, is a primary material in Ann Veronica Janssens’ art: she creates an ethereal, impalpable, and transient universe. In the artist’s words: «My work is much about subtraction, using materials that are sometimes liquid, sometimes solid, sometimes gaseous. I always strive for the minimal dimension of things. My practice is like a grand dance, always in motion, like light».

1. Ann Veronica Janssens, Untitled (Prism), 2013 - Courtesy the artist and Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes
© 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE - Photo © Blaise Adilon

Ann Veronica Janssens: a brief biography

Born in Folkestone in the UK in 1956, Ann Veronica Janssens spent much of her adolescence in Brussels. Growing up between Belgium and Kinshasa, she developed a profound connection with art and natural phenomena, influencing her artistic practice. After her studies at the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre, Janssens began her art career in the studio of the Polish artist Tapta, where she refined her understanding of architectural spaces.

2. Ann Veronica Janssens, Portrait - Courtesy Galleria Alfonso Artiaco © 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE Photo Grafiluce

For over 40 years, Janssens has dedicated her artistic research to exploring intangible physical phenomena like light, colour, sound, and air to probe the mechanisms of human perception. Her works generate a broad spectrum of sensations and emotions, from joy to vertigo, from uncertainty to blinding brightness to hypnotic states that immerse the viewer in unique sensory environments.

3. Ann Veronica Janssens, Blue, Red and Yellow, 2001 – Open date. Installation view, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, 2020 - Courtesy the artist and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art © 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE
- Photo © Kim Hansen

Light as “material” in Ann Veronica Janssens’ work

Among all artistic mediums, Janssens favours light, sculpting it in its various manifestations: liquid, solid, and gaseous. Shaping light through artificial fog, colour reflections, or glitter-covered floors, she creates works of art that explore the fine line between presence and absence. These pieces challenge the static nature of sculpture and installation, actively engaging viewers through the clever use of light and its impact on the environment. 

4. Ann Veronica Janssens for PHB, 2004-23 - Installation view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2023 © 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE - Photo Andrea Rossetti

Thanks to scientific and technological collaborations, Janssens’ works accentuate the boundaries between contrasting elements, like light and darkness, sound and silence, tangible and intangible, stimulating an alternative perception of reality and often highlighting sociopolitical and cultural aspects.

5. Ann Veronica Janssens, La pluie météorique, 1997 (detail) - Collection M HKA / Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp Courtesy the artist © 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE

Recent exhibitions of Ann Veronica Janssens

Two recent exhibitions of Ann Veronica Janssens have made an indelible impression. The first, “Hot Pink Turquoise“, was installed at the South London Gallery in London in 2020; the second, “Grand Ball,” occurred at Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan in 2023. Both exhibitions explored a central theme of her work: the relationship between the materiality and immateriality of light.

At the South London Gallery in London, Janssens showcased her capacity for simplification, concealing the complexities inherent in her works while highlighting the materials’ properties and the effects of light on them. In Milan at Pirelli HangarBicocca, her career was explored through an exhibition designed to interact with industrial architecture, expanding time and space.

Ann Veronica Janssens, “Grand Bal”, exhibition view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2023 - © 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE - Photo Andrea Rossetti

Tracing the paths of light, we can relive the entire history of art with projects that inspire, astonish, and move. The great artists of yesterday and today teach us that the inventions and emotions surrounding light, a fundamental component of our lives, are varied and numerous. Among these luminaries is Ann Veronica Janssens, who has made light her chosen artistic material, thus exploring one of the most powerful and simultaneously fleeting substances.

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