Damien Schoëvaërt-Brossault

Lecturer at Université Paris-Sud/Biologist

Nathalie Junod Ponsard invites us to join her deep in light—in itself an unusual experience when we know that colour is ordinarily a surface phenomenon. What we usually interpret as colours are alterations of light obtained by absorption, diffusion, or reflection on the surfaces of lit objects. And it is precisely this experience of coloured surfaces, combined with our tactile experience of outlines, which makes visual recognition possible. Nathalie Junod Ponsard deliberately shuns surface appearances, immersing us in an energy-charged background where recognition is superseded by a kind of “luminous rebirth”. To achieve this, she uses complementary blocks of pure light that totally inundate the space, rotating and varying their wavelengths in regular sequences. This contrast-rich immersion, whose effects disorient the viewer, stimulates the recently discovered receptors of “non- visual” perception. Mostly located in the ganglion layer of the retina, these receptors secrete melanopsin, a substance thought to play a part in the photic memory of coloured backgrounds. Tonic perception of a dense, stable luminous background is understood to allow the emergence, through contrast, of transitory shapes. By setting blocks of light in motion, Nathalie Junod Ponsard prevents shapes from reconstituting themselves against luminous backgrounds: in her installation, outlines and shadows, trapped inside blocks of saturated light, dissolve into isoluminance. By giving way to non-visual perception, this “de-realization” of forms plunges the viewer into a paradoxical state where a familiar sense of wellbeing goes hand in hand with a strange feeling of having lost one’s habitual bearings. Faced with this weird, ghostly background, the eye is irresistibly drawn to a narrow, transient area of pure white at the point where the complementary colours overlap. What the eye seeks here might be described as an “opening” between two blocks of light, as if it might still slip into the gap and catch a fleeting glimpse of a form inside the milky halo. But instead this magma of forms, plunged into incandescent colour, becomes pure energy that they eye eagerly and unreservedly absorbs. Deep in light, Nathalie Junod Ponsard introduces us to an unexpected way of seeing—but is it not precisely the purpose of art to expand our perception of the world?