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The French artist will spend time in his ancestral home of Martinique, a place he says 'haunts my imagination and fuels it'.

BMW Art Journey 2021 Winner Julien Creuzet Plans to Stay Put

Julien Creuzet, dim lights of distant stars LEDs of warning lights indulge, lamp post embers that burn wings, mad sacrifice of the light butterfly, twilight phantom from before the birth of the world (...) it's the uncanny, I must have been gone too long that place far away, home is in my black-dreams it's the uncanny, strangled words while drowning, I howled alone underwater, my fever (...), 2019. Installation view, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Courtesy Palais de Tokyo and High Art.

Artist Julien Creuzet will spend time in Martinique and Guadeloupe as the winner of the BMW Art Journey 2021.

'Martinique is the land that haunts my imagination and fuels it, both metaphorically and literally,' he told Ocula Magazine. 'I started to learn art there. I strive to make my contribution, to give back.'

A member of the Caribbean diaspora in France, Creuzet is represented by High Art, Paris. In his work, he frequently recombines objects to suggest fictional social and historical states.

He plans to work with art students, musicians, and filmmakers in Fort-de-France to create a body of work that will include a 'Caribbean road movie' and hybrid sculptures of Antillean animals and industrial objects. He will also visit nearby Guadeloupe to film underwater and using drones.

'Martinique is an island of possibility, with energies willing to make the artistic and cultural scene thrive,' Creuzet said. 'But this territory is overlooked because of lasting colonial dynamics.'

Creuzet's approach is very different to Hong Kong artist Leelee Chan, who visited sculptors and marble quarries in Italy, and planned to visit crystal caves in Mexico and a factory producing quartz in Japan (before the pandemic derailed those plans) as part of her BMW Art Journey last year.

For his journey, Creuzet prefers to stay in one place.

'I have shown and shared my practice and perspective around the world, but never in the land of my ancestors,' he said. 'I speak about memory, I speak of heritage, I speak of trauma, I speak of regaining self-confidence, all around the world. Now is a great time to be able to think and reflect in and with Martinique and Martiniqueans.'

Julien Creuzet.

Julien Creuzet. Courtesy the artist and High Art.

His decision was in part inspired by Covid-19, and the inequalities it has highlighted around the world. Creuzet wanted to find a way to connect and collaborate with communities left out of the global art discourse.

'These questions are all the more pressing for those of us who, like me, are part of a diaspora,' he said. 'I took these concerns with me when, a few months ago, I took the decision to go back to Martinique for the first time in 10 years.'

While he will not cover a lot of physical distance himself, Creuzet sees Martinique as defined by the journeys of others.

'Martinique is a creolised territory. Going there is travel between North and South, travel through complex French and global history, an exploration of the ocean,' he said.

Creuzet won the BMW Art Journey ahead of shortlisted artists Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, represented by Vanguard Gallery, Shanghai, and Alice Wang, who is represented by Capsule Shanghai.

He was selected by a jury comprising Asia Art Archive's Claire Hsu, museum director Matthias Mühling, art foundation president Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, UCCA Contemporary Art Center's Philip Tinari, and artist Samson Young.

'We were impressed by the generosity of his project, how it makes space for other artists – a gesture of care and humility that's in keeping with our healing moment,' the jury said. —[O]

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