Jill Gallieni is as discreet and mysterious as are the prayers she lays on paper. Indeed, these prayers can only be addressed to the saints they invoke, for they are intentionally rendered unreadable. Cryptic writing par excellence, where absence is made visible, her work plunges us into a deep anchorite universe. For more than 10 years, the gallery has represented this French artist, whose works are as well part of major European collections of art brut such as that of the Museum of LaM (France), of art brut in Lausanne (Switzerland) or even of the Hannah Rieger collection (Austria).
Jill Galliéni was born in 1948 to an American mother and a French father, and has always lived in Paris. Her father was an actor. She was brought up by guardians until the age of seven, when her father took over her care. She began creating her strange fabric dolls at a very early age. She turned to prayer towards the age of thirty as a way of helping her to rebuild her life and free herself from the vicious mental traps that were stopping her from living her life to the full. She initially wanted to “speak” through the medium of words, but, finding it unbearable to see sentences written in her own hand, she invented sentences from prayers – always the same, repeated hundreds of times. These formed tightly bundled garlands so that the meaning of the prayer would remain a mystery. The prayers are addressed to Saint Rita, patron saint of lost causes, and refer to situations, people, her own circumstances, and so on. They feature imitations of the written word or superimposed layers of writing in black or coloured ink, covering loose sheets of paper and notebooks. Thus freed from the constraints of convention, the writing roams in different directions, following its own rhythm, forming curves and diagonals and creating calligram flowers, houses, hearts, and abstract shapes.
Her striking texts – including a rare notebook presented at the Histoire(s) de carnet exhibition at Drawing Now Paris in 2010 – have recently been acquired by the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art.