Damien Cadio Crumble, 190 × 140 cm, 2019. © ADAGP, Paris / SOCAN, Montreal (2021)
Photo : courtesy of the artist

Damien Cadio, Des horizons

Thomas Fort
The recent paintings of Damien Cadio—from the floral still lifes to Nuit de l’Histoire, both series ongoing since 2016 — make up a decaying panorama of residual figures, like meagre scraps surviving in the shadows of grandiose situations. By revealing a world under the yoke of entropy, his works reflect on the stakes of painting while also exploring the contemporary crisis of representation. Without turning into narrative or illustration, his paintings stage a terrain in which, in the words of anthropologist Marc Augé, we “make our thoughts angry.”1 1 - Marc Augé, Oblivion, trans. Marjolijn de Jager (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 9. 2 [1998] 13.In stark contrast to the dramatic increase in the flow of capital, goods, and people, Cadio’s paintings offer a slow, almost out-of-phase temporality. In so doing, they propose a critical view of the exponential networks of globalized appearances. By offering a few silent fragments, they maintain a fundamentally contemporary language.

Crab claws, flowers, charred book, or snowy mountain: Cadio’s paintings deal with multiple subjects that act as catalysts for images with sombre tonalities, traversed here and there by clear, luminous bursts. They find coherence through a fairly muted colour palette combined with tight, even elliptical framing. Cadio’s stylistic choices confine the objects depicted behind closed doors. No distractions or escape routes remain. Our eye butts up against the frontality of the compositions and their shallow depth of field. In Le Ciel et l’Arcadie (2017), a bouquet is scattered on the ground in a tangle of branches, petals, and withered leaves. A cold, white light illuminates the centre of the canvas, fighting with the shadow covering it. In the bottom third of the painting, the stems stand out feverishly against the background, demarcating an area of profound darkness, like a precipice positioning the scene on the edge of collapse. This dynamic recurs in Crumble (2018–2019). Here, the hues alternate between crimson, greyish beige, and rosewood, colouring a pile of dried flowers, some of which look like empty shells, as though in the process of becoming fossilized. In 1933(2016), the pages of a burnt book create the appearance of geological strata. Our eye cuts across them to discern, on the right, the barely visible detail of a reproduction of Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. Pushed almost entirely out of the frame, this famous image no longer inspires any hope here.

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This article also appears in the issue 102 - (Re)seeing Painting

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