Currently reading : SB6 Archive (2012): Damien Cadio
Damien Cadio, Flandres, 2007, oil on canvas
Damien Cadio, B2h2amx (Loftversion), 2007, oil on canvas
Paintings by Damien Cadio
Translation by Lara Crawshaw
Do you feel close to what has been written about your production: “A subtle danger emphasizing the strangeness of everyday life, it’s dark, mysterious and threatening side. A latent danger”?
Yes, to the extent where reality and everyday is a shelter to this danger. Banality is built on a network of events, guides empirically solidified, whose breakpoints are uncertain. Measured use of force - driven by the desire that everything is going well - we can slip on this continuum. However, a disruption may occur, dramatically. That’s what I try to do with painting, using a beam of ordinary subjects but disoriented, off center, away from the spectacle of the imagination.
I started painting with a bang, with huge canvases painted with blood, piss, very violent. I then spent years putting this barbarism under the carpet, to dominate it. I think it is still there, but it merged with a form of affection - which is not its opposite - making it approachable, disconnecting the violence of concrete visual current flow.
Spending our lives developing defense systems foolproof, there is no risk to cause much «evil», to be on the line, straddling the gap. And of these eruptions, these disorders can sometimes hatch humor, nonsense, languor, boredom, heat...
Can we consider your practice of portraiture as “sadistic”?
If it is, it would be by revenge. I paint portraits because I need people in some of my paintings - in their habitat. Objects are not enough. Sometimes the agreement of a tight framing on a face or a title can escape the embodied representation. Suddenly representing someone determines time and geography, in the hair and skin that yields and collapses differently depending on the pressure of time. I avoid this at all costs.
Violence in my portraits is other than the one I just mentioned. Painting a face is losing control of the painting, going from work to a masterpiece, since a reality characterized, individuated must be imposed in the canvas. Maybe violence is finally here. In the intrusion of a real strong, directional, exogenousness in the painting - as an attempt to disappear. For example, I never managed to paint a close-up; I have not even considered it.
Do you use any type of images or do you have restrictions (and then make choices in these selected categories)?
They are not strictly speaking restrictions. I look for ordinary images - because again violence is never far away - and their attention to detail brings out a simple environmental sign of extraordinary events. Just as one sometimes gives new attention to the soundtrack of a film when seen again (or cropping the picture as Scanner aka Robin Rimbaud does, whose records are kind of soundtracks for unrealistic movies).
I look for an entry point in a ghost image in the “subtext”, if that exists in painting. Imagine an amateur’s photography. A teenager poses topless, tight muscles in a strong pose. The sudden flash is straightforward. Deep in his room there is a lamp, whose light intensity painfully struggles against this flash. A floor lamp with a light green shade, damaged, often falling to wipe the anger, but yet is integrated into the body of this boy, because all that is spatially alongside the body, all objects that surround him are disguised. They are like metal particles which agglutinate on a magnetic body, forming a shell. And conversely, by cropping, all of which characterize this boy at this moment, its uncertainty, its sovereignty silent, his defiance…flows into the lamp that has become sun. Epiphany!
Do you think you paint the vision of a solitary and worrying world populated by abandoned people?
I do not think of them alone. Each painting is born of a frame, which uses the neighbor canvas to support and accompany it. Thus the exhibitions are people. A line, a set of characters, objects, extras, sets wisely aligned, a polyphonic choir. Finally it is the division, fragmentation, disconnection in the narrative that can be isolated. And then there is no marker, trace of a specific time - except occasionally a neck ruff, a battery, a Beaulieu - is there to mark an achrony that somehow must be superimposed on the viewer’s own sense of time. Thus, to accompany him in the off-screen.
The tranquility or anxiety?
Rather the calm before the storm.
"Banality is built on a network of events, guides empirically solidified, whose breakpoints are uncertain."
Damien Cadio, Palace, 2008, oil on canvas
Damien Cadio, Lübeck, 2007, oil on canvas
Damien Cadio, Kling Klong, 2007, oil on canvas
When you say “in a very passive way, I observe in silence the images that come to me,” are you implying you have a apolitical view toward images? Resignation? An enslavement?
In a way yes. I have no attitude, not voluntary, and no deterministic system proponent to construct my work. The work is usually “upstream,” which means that the artistic gesture is supposed to be a reassessment of reality, a change of perspective or paradigm. It can also be “downstream,” turned to the archive, silence and death. I make atlases, I collect and read without direction or jubilation, in trying my hand at a completely subjective transparency to observe precisely how it will pass the image to the table, observe the arbitrary diagram, the “prosody” of the operation. In short, a step aside to possibly catch a glimpse of how the environment, the world passes through me and appears in the table. Not to impede on it.
A sleeping man is for me an absolute figure of the art piece as highlighted by Kafka. Perec: “It is not necessary for you to go out of your house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, just wait. Do not even wait, be absolutely silent and alone. The world will open it’s self to you so that you can unmask it, it can not do otherwise, ecstatic, it will twist before you.” This is a form of resignation, but terribly positive!
Made up, your characters - do they not insist on the fact that every character is wearing make up, a transvestite?
In 1918, Duchamp abandoned the painting “Tu m ‘”. In 1920 he invented Rrose Selavy and signed the Fresh Widow: it separates us from the painting, but not of his garment.
It is true that my characters are rarely pure. For shame, for the gap to real, to divert attention or the risk of a cross of light. Often, it misses. I have a hard time painting faces clearly. I like to paint hands, and even when I miss them it makes me laugh, but not faces.
When I miss a painting, I take my distance towards the original image, and the canvas does its work. She dressed a skull still bleeding (that of pseudo-pain the pseudo-failure) of a new skin, thin, custom. The model is the Gilles of Watteau. The guy goes straight to the slaughterhouse, eyes half closed, deceitful. He was sentenced (how can it be otherwise when such pack stirs in your back), but did not hesitate to share his body at the last moment with that of a donkey. Transvestite, but especially transubstantiated.
What does the paleness of your paintings bring to your painted subject? What is this paleness, obliteration’s meaning?
I would rather use the term grayness or lack of radiance. It’s a way to inform my subject. It is my defined style in some way. Not that I think it, but the subjects must have a form. (I do not mean existence.) From a technical standpoint, it’s more of a stain. I break the colors and I make part of the lights white, which has the same effect. It is also to take a distance with the snapshots that I create a light veil, placing images halfway between an openly nostalgic aesthetic and acidity of the digital present. And then the shine, the light shade implies a frank shadow and in such situations there is no room for appearances, for suggestions and halftone transparencies.
As written by Serge Daney, “any form is a face looking at us.” You paint the characters blindfolded, with hidden faces. Why do you hide these eyes that remind us of our own spectatorial eyes?
The characters do not look more to the neighbors paintings so much as they turn away from us. I do not hide the gaze but I instead express a veil that insinuate that the stares are exchanged behind the scenes. Every form is a body, but not necessarily a face, let alone an eye. The characters allow themselves to look. They turn away or even end up out of context. It’s like in movies. You do not look at the camera to stick to the contract with the viewer. The tables are female - there is a hollow eye, an alcove.
Is it like painting the impossibility of a dialogue?
No, it’s trying to postpone, to procrastinate. In Manet’s art there is a lack and presence of confusion. The characters are watching us so intently, with a fluid eye that the painted bodies become remote. Or, there are inexplicable lows, as in the center of the “balcony.” These distortions enable the painting to following us and haunt us. I would like to say that the painting remains “anti-record,” not attached to the story but perhaps to other images. Anyway, art is resistant and it lets itself be described only sparsely. It is the handicap of language itself. We know that words cannot say everything. Everything is limited. It is as old as Lessing, who, conceding the action to poetry presents to the eye of beauty. Maybe this is it, this beauty, which is just this hole in the language that the painting does not fill, but extends.
"Maybe violence is finally here. In the intrusion of a real strong, directional, exogenous in the painting, as an attempt to disappear."
Damien Cadio, Herr Bärr, 2008, oil on canvas
Damien Cadio, Lady Marlène, 2007, oil on canvas
Newman said he did large formats to enhance their intimate character. Could you explain the aesthetic issues that cause you to use a small format?
I appreciate the small sizes canvases for the same reasons Newman loved the big sizes! My paintings have gradually narrowed down as the subjects grew and the surface of the objects began to haunt me. From a fixed viewpoint (slouching in my seat), I could see and work the entire scene, and the reverse in some brushstrokes without expensively investing my body. I was detached more easily from the world and myself in this sphere that expands almost motionlessly during manufacture. So, oddly enough, my formats have stabilized around 24x30cm, and that’s what allowed me to look at the canvas as a multitude of scales and viewpoints, to put me to build it as a scene, as a plan in a compact assembly.
Anyway, I think the small size generally enters through the eye without necessarily going through the stomach, without taking the audience hostage. The surface being a little soft, tenderly caressed and the apparent banality of the subject is also part of the strategy for violence and obscenity that can float in the table and be looked at, precisely, in a very intimate way.
Do you use captured images from downloaded movies, which create an abstraction via the bad quality of the landscapes and figures they depict?
Absolutely. The details are rinsed and the gradients become plans and perspective without excessive cuts which sometimes result in simply absurd images. With this kind of very suggestive patina - this digital sfumato - to interpret a screenshot is very exhilarating, because I find myself treating entire areas of pure spots, areas of non-determined abstract. Unlike my ex-, frankly abstract paintings, whose image depiction is generally very faithful, and respected thoroughly, screenshots are more exciting, more enjoyable. And, no fun, no painting! VHS, for example, washes the image to such an extent that the colors are already those that I seek, that the outlines are already eaten, filed, as if there was a correlation between magnetic grime and slime oil . White is generally more like a ghost trail of light as a breakthrough that will ruin the area, finding themselves at the forefront of the whole scene.
Do you paint inflamed bodies?
Indirectly. As in photography, the burnt areas are white. For light I use color, but white is another thing. A bit like when nitrate films were burning. The fire makes holes in the film, and the most direct white flushed, like a sun in a cave. This gives a sudden vision of the light body which emanates directly from their projections, the body’s proper light.
Do you mention the idea of suspicion in your paintings?
I am very wary of the idea of suspicion.
Luc Tuymans says that his job is “analytical, not sign driven.” Do you also abide by this strange dichotomy between signified and signifier?
I think Luc Tuymans is one of the few artists that copiously paints a beautiful and modern painting, and assigns (by the accuracy (or not) of the subjects, sets and titles) a thought purpose, without canceling one or the other out. I believe a form of indifference makes this possible. Hierarchies, the weight of things, stories.
Although it does make me wonder. “Analytic”…it’s almost as if the romantic relationship was described in a caressing way, high at the time of administration.
Are you interested in the painting of Giorgio Morandi? If so, what interests you?
Yes. This is a painting in which one can live. We can sit and breathe. I understand that his work has been so often invoked before and after September 11, 2001. This is a painting from the world, a paint-island, which has accepted the general disasters without ambiguities. No vision but with spirit, into a final image.
Do you paint poisoned atmospheres?
More like a giant portrait of the plot marquise starlet in the twentieth century.