Textes d'Eric Corne / Eric Corne's texts
When I’m painting, I always think about a duck sur Damien Cadio
9 décembre 2015
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 When I’m painting, I always think about a duck.1

In scenes imbued with the unexpected, Damien Cadio’s painting confronts the eye with seemingly concrete spaces simultaneously occupied by the imaginative and a fear of the imagination. Meticulously, he works as if furnishing a child’s cabin, a theatre or a cemetery – but with images. As image, as resurgent heteropia2 and dissembling of death, his painting captures the moment, indexes the real and pins down the isness of each work in its decontextualisation. Thus does Cadio define kinds of counter-sites, places neither recognisable nor truly locatable in which are revealed living things, landscapes and objects from the outer reaches of the human and the animal. His painting homes in on the indefinable, brushes over it in a disclosing of reality as surreal. Its subjects – found material from the Internet, newspaper photographs, mental images, scenes plucked from some chance urban encounter – are reframed to that breaking point where their immediate intelligibility is lost and the elusive is made plain. Here is a replaying of an endlessly primal scene in which, amid intimations of the familiar, something takes place.

Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.3

Cadio frames images that are already overexposed. His paintings are built on a notion of the limits of representation as incapable, in terms of understanding and scope, of giving an account of the object they delineate. Any presence one may detect is either spectral or specular, reaffirming each subject’s homothetic mystery, the mystery of trace, gesture, movement or sensation. The meticulously, indeed scientifically chosen fragments he uses are clues, parts of a mystery, of a non-communication open to multiple contradictory interpretations, a kind of trauma between two events.

The work of art is only such in its capacity to cut free of a context it never fully rejects. The work’s site, setting and zone are thus to be understood as attempts to state the place of that which has no place, the mode of appearance of that which is not there. The framing stands as that which undertakes the paradoxical insertion of the work into the world.4

As the painting of appearance in destabilised, destabilising forms, the intelligible lies beyond the image, beyond what appears. Its perpetual distancing of images is a business of eyes opening and closing – one perceiving, the other deleting – which produces a distortion of the perceptual limits of subjects eluding all definition. Neither visible nor intuited, the intelligible is a secret, an aberration in no wise astounding, in which there is always a necessary distance from the painter – from what he perceives, conceives, sees – to the beholder, a distance in which the seen mingles with the not seen in residual non-adaptation. At issue here is loss: of bearings, of « how to see » colour and materiality, object and light becoming subjects. An expanse of silence is required for sensing the image and its specular facade, its natura naturans5 of forms and beings. Seeing non-seeing, like saying non-said: at the point where reason crumbles in the face of language.

Not; this is not; painting is a motionless voyage from threshold to threshold, a solo crossing on which we are led astray towards Bartleby’s I would prefer not to and its dissolving of all language, all communication.

Painting has no timeline in what it shows: in the present of its making it interprets the timelessness of the visible. It is a non-objective correlative, Proust’s little patch of yellow wall, in which are hidden, via the object depicted, the potentialities of the image: its space, its tactile surfaces and its light.

Earth’s First Evening Jimi Hendrix-less (2009), one of Cadio’s recent paintings, initially seems to be verging on abstract expressionism, when in fact everything in this copy of an image by Stan Brakhage6 is perfectly calculated. In the duration of painting the artist captures the ephemerality of imaged movement. A filmmaker who went to the essence of the medium – light reflected in darkness – Brakhage painted directly onto the film with Indian ink. The result was then reorchestrated image by image using an optical printer, with surface, colour, rhythm and image becoming pure experiences in their own right. In this work Cadio demonstrates the thoroughgoing ambiguity of his painting and of the subject’s origin. His realism, whether abstract or figurative, is never tied to form. La Jungle (2009), Forever Like Anti-Oxidants 1 and the quasi-geometrical abstraction of The Sky’s the Ground, the Bombs are Plants and We’re the Sun, Love (2009) are models of uncertainty as to what is really being shown; but in fact, as Daniel Arasse has so rightly insisted, there is nothing to be seen. For Cadio these seemingly abstract paintings are also zones of silence, object-mute zones like those in the abstract paintings of Luc Tuymans – Lungs (1998), Schrift (1988) – except that with his titles the Belgian refigures his abstract pictures.

People are painted like flowerpots. You’re lucky if the outside gets drawn as it actually is, so what about the inside? The soul is a musical composition being played behind the curtain of flesh: you can’t paint it, but you can make it heard.7

Freud’s notion of Unheimlichkeit casts interesting light on Cadio’s work: deriving from heim (« home ») and usually translated as « uncanniness », the word encapsulates the frightening quality of nonetheless familiar things, as if objects, places and even human beings can sometimes cut free of all context and take on an unknown, incomprehensible form. If a seeming (but controlled) menace is perceptible in paintings like The Cut (2009) and Dies Hadas Suns (2005), the disquiet emanating from the pictures is that of the end of a familiarity or, more precisely, of any continuum between being and its environment.

To distance oneself from things until there is much in them that one no longer sees and much that the eye must add in order to see them at all, or to see things around a corner and as if they were cut out and extracted from their context, or to place them so that each partially distorts the view one has of the others and allows only perspectival glimpses, or to look at them through coloured glass or in the light of the sunset, or to give them a surface and a skin that is not fully transparent.8

In the review Valori Plastici in 1919 Giorgio De Chirico recounted his experience of images which, while familiar, have lost their connection with logic and comprehension, becoming an enigma to be exchanged between painter and beholder.

A reality I shall not specifically describe as metaphysical is overlaid on this familiarity and calls up the image the way memory disorders do. Entering a room, I see a man seated on a chair, while I see a cage hanging from the ceiling with a canary inside it and I notice pictures and books on shelves on the wall; all this strikes but does not astonish me, for the chain of memories linking one thing to another explains the logic of what I see. But let us suppose for a moment that for reasons that are inexplicable and beyond my control, this chain should break: who knows how I would see the seated man, the cage, the pictures, the bookshelves? And who knows, then, what stupefaction, what terror and also, perhaps, what pleasure and consolation I would feel on seeing this scene?9

Animate and inanimate merge as anima and animal change roles in painting in which evolution is all: evolution as animal or puppet, evolution of landscape towards the human, a waiting for mythology, for a miracle: appearance lies in the backgrounded image, a grimace in the night, a lover’s grimace.

Cadio’s paintings come in small and medium formats in which night-lights and subtle colours blend the subjects, mix them you might say, functioning as principles of equivalence, givens onto which the painter grafts his drama: black dog in a nocturnal landscape, a man with an endless tongue, a tattooed man seen from behind, a glove/bird, broken glass, lump of meat, landscape, etc. In this respect his work reminds us of that of Luc Tuymans, who brings the same meticulousness to Christmas decorations as to a gas chamber. For both artists images are at once signs of amnesia and impossible memory, of a deliberate freezing of history or of our contemporaneity. Thus are their paintings totally at odds with narrativity: the strange, the normal, the banal and the terrible cross-fertilise from one canvas to another, so that no painting can really be considered separately.

The visual – the visibility of representation – suspends its meaning: breath of the image, that solitary image in abeyance, in which death is disguised as love and…

Vice versa.

Nice to be dead on a sweet bed.

These simultaneously compound and anatomised time frames at the heart of his method debar each other, breaking down and disfiguring the appearances of reality by displacement: things and beings are placed in non-situations and in disarray. Cadio’s titles reinforce this impression. Using his paintings, the artist seeks to communicate – I should like to stress this word – via titles which are, in fact, other veils, illusions, baits which in no way resolve the indescribability of the image.10 Thus the titles are an overlay, a parallel to the image that lead us towards an interpretation or, better still, a reception foreign to the origin of the paintings.

Making play with the individual subjectivity of reactions to the work of art, the artist deliberately sends us off down the wrong track.

Like many contemporary artists, Cadio has his roots in the modernity of the twentieth century, with its ever-perceptible threatening of human beings by the inhuman: that peril at once internal and external, the peril of the image, of all those images with their ever-uncertain origins. The dissolution of the human body, of the private into the impersonal, brought on by the loss of bearings in an environment become foreign but in which being remains under threat of internal implosion, is the iconic subject of many plastic, cinematic and literary artists. Without there being a formal kinship, Cadio’s works hark back to Expressionism and Surrealism’s vision of the human being in fundamental conflict with himself and the world.

Everything seems to suggest that there exists a point in the mind where life and death, reality and the future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low cease to be seen as contradictory. And it would be pointless to seek in Surrealist activity any other motive than the hope of ascertaining this point.11

Lengthy consideration of Cadio’s paintings leads us towards the world of another creative artist, David Lynch: « I learnt that, just below the surface, there was another world. »12 And as Eric Dufour has commented, « Lynch’s goal is to render strange everything that is ordinary and, symmetrically, to render ordinary everything that is strange…To render odd the least everyday action has as its correlate the normalising of the upsurge of the strange in the everyday. »13

I had had the intention of writing about Damien’s painting ever since I first met him and now, at the end of this essay, I realise how totally resistant to language, how hard to pin down in words it is. Blurring is central to his painting, making it unrecognisable, ungraspable – protecting itself, the image is revealed as monstrous or with its breathing subtly on hold. In this blurring of meaning and scale the infinitely small turns out to be macrocephalic. Gulliver awaiting Ithaca among the shadows where the sun is silent. Our looking at painting is always a something foreign, and often an unwanted guest, blind in this space with its intermingling of movement and repose, daylight and gloom, silence and sound – sound and fury.

« The demon was simultaneously in the thing he showed and in him to whom he showed it. » If we take this proposition by Tertullian, so dear to Pierre Klossowski, and transpose the act of looking to the demon, the notion seems to retain a certain inner consistency: the looking was at once in the thing he showed and in him to whom he showed it. Nonetheless looking, like the demon – or the angel – remains our sole guide and mediator, just as Virgil was for Dante caught up in the concentric circles of human reasoning and of the necessary artistic folly leading him from Hades to Paradise. Virgil is Dante’s memory, just as the painter’s looking towards his painting is the memory of all paintings.

Thus does the image resist words: the words are deleted and there remains only the feeling of a world unexplored, the painter’s world which must be swum across with or without the aid of a the wing of a duck.

Since we build our worlds by associating phenomena, I would not be surprised to discover that at the beginning of time there was a twice-made association. It traces a direction in chaos and is at the origin of order.14

For Damien, with all my best wishes,

Paris, October-November 2009.

Eric Corne

1 David Lynch quoted in Starfix, December 1990.

2 A concept outlined by Michel Foucault in a 1967 lecture titled Des espaces autres (« Of Other Spaces »). Foucault there defines the heteropia as the physical location of a utopia.

3 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.4311, trans. C.K. Ogden, Cosimo Classics, 2007.

4 Dominique Vaugois, Où y-a-t-il art, www.fabula.org.

5 A Latin term used by Spinoza to designate nature in its active state.

6 American director Stan Brakhage (1933–2003) was one of the 20th century’s most prolific experimental filmmakers, with over 300 films to his credit between 1952 and 2003.

7 From curator Rudolph Koella’s introduction to the catalogue for « Fantin-Latour, de la réalité au rêve », Musée de l’Ermitage, Lausanne, 2007.

8 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Thomas Common, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 169-170.

9 Giorgio Di Chirico, « Il ritorno al mestieri » in Valori Plastici, November-December 1919.

10 « I began using titles late, when I had to start talking about the paintings. The question came up almost without warning. Urgent thinking about the title’s role in the picture: what is said about a work circles around it (Derrida’s parergon – the truth in painting, etc.), with the words hardly ever touching the work, except for the title, which is attached to it, fitted onto it…So for my first real exhibition, at Premier Regard in Paris, I gave all the works titles drawing on the principle of multiple veils. Pretending to provide keys – narrative triggers, for example, and even descriptions of pictures – but in fact keeping up a level of absurdity sufficient to sustain the illusion. The title’s a bait, designed to give the impression that the picture means something, that it has an intelligible signification. » — Damien Cadio in an interview with Sophie Kaplan.

11 André Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism.

12 Eric Dufour David Lynch: matière, temps et image, Vrin, 2008, p. 27.

13 Ibid., p. 14

14 Witold Gombrowicz, quoted in Czeslaw Milosz, The History of Polish Literature, University of California Press, 1969, p. 437.