François Morellet

Born in 1926 in Cholet. Deceased in 2016 in Cholet, France.
Member of the G.R.A.V

I prefer pi – Paris, February 2006

If there is a plastic dimension of mathematics, then it is geometry. François Morellet is an explorer; his work mirrors infinity in its spatial rendering. Draw a straight vertical line, a straight horizontal line, put an arrow at the end of each straight line, add plus and minus infinity on the right and left… and that’s where troubles begin for those who, like me, are lazy, who would like to wander through infinity, that reclining figure eight, the serpent that eats its own tail and symbolizes the universe in most mythologies, but who draw back from the Himalayan range of calculations and equations, and only retain the poetry of mathematics.

Fortunately for us, there is François Morellet, equipped with ruler and protractor and the courage to use them. When one of Morellet’s works goes on show, it immediately fills the entire space: hang one of Morellet’s works in your home and infinity is yours. As if to answer those who claim his neon tubes are cold and unbending, he presents his Lunatic Neons and Weeping Neons. Sorrowful and fickle neon tubes illuminate the works of Morellet, who thus enters the fourth dimension. He systematically plays on and with geometry, rejecting the romantic image of an artist in order to bow to the laws of physics.

“I prefer pi”, a marvellous palindrome in English, is a systematic exploration of the circle in all its many forms. Putting π in a neon lamp, breaking up the circle, is surely tantamount to denying the perfection of this form only to better sublimate it.

Entrusting a systematic investigation to an irrational, albeit remarkable, number whose decimal representation extends into infinity implies following its laws into the risky realm of trigonometry, or rationalizing the irrational.

One should remember that Morellet, an iconoclast and demystifier, writes intelligently. In a style somewhere between Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan, he uses words as cleverly as he does geometry, providing readers, lazy and otherwise, with an immediately comprehensible vision of mathematical infinity.

Lélia Mordoch