Relationship Mapping and Concrete Poetics

 Exhibition essay by Tim Corne

Order and Space, 220 Creative Space | Gallery - 2018

Annelies Jahn’s self-confessed natural tendency to collect has been fostered and honed in her art practice.  This habit to accumulate discarded objects has evolved to become a tool of selection and editing the world around her.  The objects she singles out enter her studio and become a record or map of the environment.  The objects are humble, everyday things and are often discarded packaging.

Jahn’s fascination for packaging materials, in particular Styrofoam and cardboard, nods to her background as both a graphic designer and packaging designer.  The voids, created for consumer items to be displayed and to rest protected in, are of interest to her.  The attention to detail in their conception and creation is overlooked, holding within their design, ideas behind their own production.  This superfluous material of capitalism, with their empty and enclosed spaces, deny our attention.  While walking in her neighbourhood, Jahn discovers this material adrift in the urban landscape.  The studio becomes a resting place for the lost objects and she is able to quietly rediscover a new value and power hinted within.  The voids articulate something that is no longer present, and through her selection and placement of these objects within a gallery context the artist reinstates an importance to the object.  The audience is invited to dwell on the empty space where an object of desire once resided.  Now removed, the space still contains a residue, but it is the potential of this void that remains for the artist.  Jahn groups these curious items poetically to form newfound relationships. 

The objects selected by Jahn chart a personal connection to her surroundings, exploring the beauty of everyday materials and activities.  This relationship mapping brings to mind the work of Dutch artist, herman de vries.[1]  A cardinal figure in twentieth century European art, he is best known for his involvement with the Zero movement and affiliations with Arte Povera, and Minimalism.  His work seamlessly converges and softly traverses science, philosophy and art.  de vries sees what goes unnoticed by others, and is excited by the simple normal things of life.  Jahn shares this quiet appreciation for the things we don’t notice and, like de vries, explores principles of repetition and embraces randomness as an organising principle.  Through her careful observations Jahn makes tangible the particular poetry of a space.  Both artists nd an elusive beauty in the phenomena of speci c places. 

While de vries’ art practice has come to focus on natural matter, and Jahn on made objects, each pursues simplicity and economy of composition as an attempt to mirror the basic mechanisms of life within the artistic process.  Crude materials are rendered with the clarity and refinement of each artist's sensitive touch.  de vries, influenced by Zen Buddhism and Taoism, reconciles the world around us and a location’s phenomena, presenting them as primary physical realities of human existence.[2]  Both artists collect, arrange, single-out and display fragments of their environment, creating site specific meditations that call attention to both the oneness and the diversity of the greater world.

Jahn’s wall drawings are concerned with the relationships that exist within a space, like the connections she discovers in her object groupings.  She is interested in giving light to the delicate subtleties underlying a place and the particular grid inherent to a location, the invisible, disregarded and visceral connection we all have with the world.  Jahn’s exploration of space becomes an existential exploration of our own consciousness, a mapping of the mind. 

Mapping has to do with the act of appropriating the world around us and imposing one’s own view of its order.[3]  The Alexandrian library was the central point of knowledge in the ancient world.  Eratosthenes of Cyrene (245 BCE), the head librarian and mapmaker at Alexandria, used the map as a device, which gave a material and visual reality to that which is unseen.   It was an abstract device, which imposed a shape, borders and symmetry on the inhabited earth.[4]  The maps of Eratosthenes and Jahn are abstract geometrical constructions rather than a practical device.  But unlike Eratosthenes, Jahn goes out into the world, collecting objects or responding to the singularities of a space.  She brings back experiences to a centre: the artists’ studio.  Like the Ancient mapmakers of Greece she is acting as a centripetal dynamic, collecting data from a periphery and translating empirical field data into her own coherent diagram of the world.  

The work of Annelies Jahn appropriates the self as a scale of measure and acts as an individual mapping of the subtle and overlooked phenomena of her immediate world.  In doing so she maps the greater world in a process to make sense of it. 


[1] herman de vries uses all lowercase letters as a symbol of his belief in equality.  Ottavia Fontana “About herman de vries: Biography” Artsy (2017), (accessed December 10, 2017).

[2] Francesca Pola, “herman de vries: the return of beauty”, Cortesi Gallery (2017), (accessed December 2017). 

[3] Christian Jacob, “Mapping in the Mind: The Earth from ancient Alexandria,” in Mappings, ed. Denis Coegrove (London: Reaktion, 2002), 32. 

[4] Christian Jacob, “Mapping in the Mind: The Earth from ancient Alexandria,” in Mappings, ed. Denis Coegrove (London: Reaktion, 2002), 29, 30. 

[5] Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art, No. 29. “The Process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.” (accessed 30.06.2016)