Her latest compositions are double helixes, similar to doubled springs and comparable to the representation of DNA we are used to seeing. Let us recall the comment of Marcel Duchamps on the occasion of his visit to the Aerial Locomotion Show, held at the Grand Palais in Paris. He addressed Fernand Léger and said: “Who could do better than this helix? Tell me, could you do that?”
This anecdote says a lot about the necessity for sculpture to take measure of the industrial society, which produces objects and codes with which the modern artist plays. Laurence Jenkell, like many artists from her time, uses industrial techniques to create. Her work situates her in the slipstream of the work of art at the age of mechanical reproduction, as Walter Benjamin put it in the title of his article.
In order to give her plastic research a meaning, she asks herself about the characteristics of DNA as a meticulous scientist would do: the terminology referring to DNA, its representations and above all the meaning it contains. In an always vivid and contradictory spirit, Laurence Jenkell treats a serious subject as an echo to the light subject that are sweets. She goes from consumption to technology and from fold to string, weaving her work.
It was first with drawings and then with electric wires that the research allowing her to go from one shape to the other began and ended, going from her Wrapping to her Spring. This intermediary stage in her creation refers to the Cirque Calder, and the use he makes of wire. Spring plays on the double meaning the word has. It is the season following winter as well as the mechanism. The artist herself would say concerning her work named Chrysalis: “the spring-like colour of this work inspired me for the title, referring to insects’ chrysalises and the embryonic aspect of circles of colour evoking caterpillars before their metamorphosis into butterflies.” This butterfly is directly linked to the sweet wrappers and the embryo echoes the core of the sweet as well as birth and the transmission of genes in the DNA. In a reflexive logic, Laurence Jenkell’s work nourishes itself.
By endlessly multiplying the “perfect form” of DNA, the artist seems to seek to unravel the double helix’s mysterious curl. DNA is the transmission mode par excellence for genetic information. But how can one “decipher” DNA in an act of pure vision? We know DNA holds the gene pool. In that sense, it is as unique as is each one of Laurence Jenkell works. However, a lot of questioning emerges through confrontation of what we see and what we know of DNA. The static aspect of the sculpture opposes the perpetual multiplying of our cells. Indeed, Laurence Jenkell shows our gene pool as an ever-changing universe of possibilities, like a thread of life endlessly unwinding, rather than showing it in a deterministic fashion.
These latest creations evoke architectural models. For instance, Chromosome chronology reminds us of the Tower of Babel, the Castle in the sky by Hayao Miyasaki, Vladimir Tatline’s Monument for the third Internationale, or Why? which evokes the Endless column by Constantin Brancusi. Futuristic and bucolic, they stand and soar into the sky like launch pads towards sweeter, warmer and more colourful spheres: the Jenkell universe, which we imagine childish and filled with sweets. These curves, so graceful and so sweet, remind us of the question of Deleuze's fold and the mystery it contains.
Her Flag Wrappings are another step in the transition between sweets and DNA. They are reminiscent of veils, sheets and fabric, in other words fibre or even string. Unlike most of her work, the flag wrappings are clones, the artist comparing them to “an army of little soldiers, like the Xi'an army in China.” Laurence Jenkell likes the aura of a unique item, like the uniqueness present in each DNA. But the Flag Wrappings are an exception: each sweet has been produced 12 times, identically. Like the countries they represent, they tend towards standardization, a unique model. In the same way, the society of mass-consumption that Pop Art has taken interest in sees the individual not as an entity but as a whole. When looking at colours and structures, many flags are actually similar. For instance, the French flag borrowed its colours from the American Revolution, although it finds a new justification in the representation of the three orders. Others countries whose flags share the same colours include the United-Kingdom, the Netherlands, the U.S.A., Australia, and Cuba.
This brings us back to the issue of identity: national identity with the flag as well as individual identity with DNA. On one hand culture heritage which belongs to a group of individuals and on the other hand the specificity of each one these individuals, the differences between them.
Whether it is the packaging of sweets or the structure of DNA, Laurence Jenkell appears to be fascinated by the question of the fold. There is no doubt that the artist’s new creations show a new period: though the fold of the wrappers still revealed the core of the sweet, the twisting DNA brings forth nothing but itself. It does not intend to reveal anything; in fact it stands as the very exposition of life's mystery. The fold isn’t the symbol of an essence, it is a process. Form and content are side by side.
In this way, Laurence Jenkell seems to capture the words Deleuze once asked when speaking about Leibniz: “What does the soul tissue mean?” Of course no answer can “fill up” such a question. The exhibition and presentation of Laurence Jenkell’s work will start reflections and thoughts on the matter, for they are at the heart of the work.