Interview: Jenk, creator of the iconic ‘Candy’ art

You’ve no doubt seen a Jenk Candy sculpture in Monaco, Saint Tropez, or even Dubai, and chances are, you may have even tried to make one yourself in her Monaco workshop.  

Born in France in 1965, Laurence Jenkell, better known as Jenk, is a painter, plastic artist, and sculptor living and working in Vallauris in the Alpes-Maritimes. In 2022, she opened a workshop gallery in Monaco, which had recently relocated to the vibrant Quartier of La Condamine.

Autodidactic Jenk started to create on her own in the middle of the 90s, and through her artistic exploration, she experimented with various techniques such as inclusion (adding different substances), dripping, firing, and casting. In her unrelenting inventive search, she became proficient in the demanding process of molding plexiglass through wrapping, enabling her to produce her now signature Candy sculpture. By reshaping, wrapping, and twisting Plexiglass, she produces assorted art pieces such as the spiral of DNA, BuildArt, and even Robots, which have been exhibited around the globe.

Laurence Jenkell with Prince Albert, source: Prince’s Palace (left). Oculus Exhibition December 2018, New York, WTC Ground Zero Memorial, photo by Jenk (right)

Monaco Life Feature Journalist Celina Lafuente de Lavotha met with Jenk, who recently moved her Workshop Gallery to La Condamine, to learn about what inspires this successful artist, the diverse materials she uses, the myriad of experimental techniques she uses to create her world-famous sculptures, and the workshops she organises to bring her art closer to the people. 

Monaco Life: You are a self-taught artist. What inspired you to embrace a professional art career? Who are your main artistic influences?

As a child, I was naturally drawn to expressing my emotions through drawing and painting, even though I initially didn’t choose an art career. I attended evening classes at the Association of Fine Arts in Cannes only later in life, which allowed me to explore and expand my artistic expression. My inspirations in art are diverse. I am deeply influenced by modern and contemporary artists like Pablo Picasso, remarkable women artists like Nikki de Saint Phalle and Louise Bourgeois, and the figurative works of Camille Claudel.

Is it important to network with other artists? If so, how do you go about it?

It’s crucial to forge connections with fellow contemporary artists. Networking is vital for sharing distribution networks, supporting each other, and participating in group exhibitions, which enriches our collective artistic journey.

Jenk during an exhibition at Zetbase

When and how did you come up with the idea of creating the Candy artwork that has made you famous worldwide?

My interest in the theme of candy stems from my childhood, when sweets were off-limits, turning them into a genuine obsession for me. In my 30s, as I began my career, I naturally gravitated towards this theme. My initial experiments in creating Candy artworks called ‘Bonbon’ started with plexiglass, a medium without which the iconic Bonbon would never have existed. 

Is molding plexiglass a complicated process? Which other materials do you use in your sculptures?

Mastering using plexiglass to sculpt my signature Bonbon or Candy pieces was a challenging process fraught with complexities. I mold the plexiglass after being heated in an oven, which demands precision and careful attention to the material’s response to heat to avoid overheating and bubbling. 

In addition to plexiglass, I have used marble, bronze, aluminium, Murano glass, and wood to create various sculptures. Despite exploring these multiple materials, plexiglass remains my favoured medium due to its unique qualities and the challenges it presents.

Jenk working in her studio using the firing technique over plexiglass, 2022, credit: Bestimage

Your artistic universe includes Candies, DNA, BuildArt, and Robots. What is the message behind your different art pieces?

Having refined my skills in manipulating plexiglass, I expanded these techniques to earlier series like DNA, BuildArt, and Robots, and more recent ones such as Ice Candy and Mona Candy. 

In my DNA series, combining two twisted shapes created the double helix of DNA, symbolising the molecule of immortality. This collection delves into exploring our origins to gain a deeper understanding. 

The Shiny Polished Aluminium Wrapping series continues my exploration of the twisting gesture, applying it to contemporary issues that resonate with me. I express my perspective on today’s society by transforming familiar objects and animals, such as coffee makers or elephants. 

The BuildArt and Robot collections extend from my passion for twisting shapes. Highly influenced by architecture, BuildArt draws inspiration from notable buildings, crafting an increasingly architectural and psychedelic panorama – an invitation to explore the dramatic world of architecture. The Robot series reflects on the complexity of the cosmos, contemplating humanity’s role in the evolution of the world and emerging technologies.

Where do you find inspiration for your art?

My inspiration began with an introspective look at my childhood passion for candies, but it extends beyond those early experiences. Inspiration surrounds me, from architecture and science to landscapes, literature, and influential artists.

How did you develop the workshop idea for creating the wrapping Bonbon? 

My aim has always been to make art accessible to a broader audience. The concept of the ‘Wrapping Bonbon’ workshop emerged from frequent inquiries about how I transformed candy into an art form and developed the twist technique. By launching the ‘Make your Own Bonbon’ workshops in my gallery at the end of 2022, I aimed to engage both children and adults. The workshops were a hit, helping participants appreciate the complexity of creating these sculptures, thereby justifying their value even more. 

How do you promote your work?

I maintain a robust presence across all social media platforms, which is crucial in today’s digital age. Besides, I work closely with an internal communications team and a press officer to ensure the promotion of my work domestically and internationally.

Mr. Robot Plexiglass 68x148cm Piece unique 2012 by Jenk (left), ADN melting Nucleotides, Saint Tropez, (right)

You have exhibited your art pieces on the five continents. When and where is your next exhibition?

My art has been showcased globally for over two decades, with the Wrapping Bonbon reaching international audiences. My works are exhibited across various locations in the Middle East, France, Greece, and Belgium and are part of numerous museums, galleries, and private and public collections.

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Main photo of Laurence Jenkell, credit: Franz Chavaroche