editor Favre : ISBN 978-2-8289-1888-0

Youri Messen-Jaschin studied Fine art at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (student of Robert Cami). Youri spent four years in Paris. He then returned to Lausanne where he attended the École des Beaux-Arts. Youri headed to Zurich and found work as an assistant to the fantastical surrealist Friedrich Kuhn. He also regularly visited the famously inventive father of ‘Alien’, HR Giger, to whom a museum is now dedicated in Gruyères. From there, Youri went abroad. With another scholarship awarded in 1967, he pursued his artistic research at The University of Gothenburg.

What do exhibition visitors make of a canvas that appears to contain multidirectional black-and-white stripes – or are they gray? Maybe there is a pinkish tinge? Some visitors can see red, green lines on the far right of the canvas. Someone else can see a very particular yellow shade, not quite cerulean or forget-me-not blue. Op Art stages optical illusions. It’s mathematical in nature; everything is designed, down to hundredths of a millimeter, to mislead the viewer’s eyes into making their brain detect something that doesn’t exist. The image takes on different hues depending on the viewer’s position, the way they perceive it and the impact it has on one or other part of the brain. Accomplished works of Op Art require an astonishing mastery of freehand working. Only around twenty artists worldwide have made such works over multiple decades, and Youri is a master of the art. 

Youri Messen-Jaschin is a great illusionist and has huge reserves of talent. This is amply illustrated by viewing one of his works of art intently, whether sitting or standing in front of it. Then the world turns upside down, sometimes very swiftly! Some viewers are simply impressed by the patience the artist must have exercised to invent these infinitely repeating shapes which, once assembled, add an extra dimension to the work. Other observers find themselves attracted to, sucked in by these optical warping effects created using light and shade, arranged so they adopt forms that only exist for the viewer themselves. And some people feel uneasy. They need to look away to avoid nausea as their brain rolls and pitches through the canvas. This is a feature of kinetic art or highly skilled Op Art. The vibrations that produce these physical sensations arise from an optical illusion created by colors, brush strokes, circles and a sophisticated arrangement of lines varying in thickness. Youri pushes the limits of the human retina and the healthy mind. He explains: “I calculate each line so that the distances between them, or their thicknesses, create an illusion. The human eye cannot simultaneously take in two surfaces with violently contrasting colors. Similarly, superimposing different interlocking frameworks, first in black and white and then in color, creates the illusion of movement when you adjust your gaze, when in fact everything is static.” Youri make stamps – three were commissioned by the Swiss Post.

He’s won a variety of international prizes and is featured on the walls of museums at home in Switzerland such as Popa in Porrentruy, Kunsthaus Zürich, Cabinet des estampes in Geneva – and museums abroad such as Sakima Art Museum in Okinawa Prefecture and Ino-cho Paper Museum in Kochi-Ken, Japan, plus Angel Orensanz Foundation and Center for the Arts in New York, etc. 

The book

In 2022, Éditions Favre published a book about the interface between Op Art and neuroscience, ‘L’Op Art rencontre les neurosciences’; it describes this research, with supporting accounts from experts. The success of this bestselling art book seems to prove that the perception of illusions is a subject of interest to both scientists and artists.

December 2022 – Nina Brissot

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