Greyish, blueish, reddish canvases with muted hues: these are crowds, so we’re told. No border, no frame, what we see is only a fragment of an immensity that we assume stretches left and right, up and down, infinitely expanding, maybe, like photos of clouds. These are crowds of people, individuals lost in the mass, barely discernable. Each person moves, goes forward, makes a gesture; the whole thing is like an idiorhythmy, a community where everyone blends but no one disappears.
Sometimes the crowd is sparse, and each character is isolated, almost identifiable, outlined, discrete. Other times, they form such a compact and dense mass that only blocks and undulations are visible. And sometimes openings and clearings can be seen, aerating the artwork, evoking the Latin “rarus,” porous and scattered, or the Japanese “Ma,” advocating for emptiness.
From where exactly are we looking at these paintings by Philippe Cognée (at the Galerie Daniel Templon, January 7 – March 4, 2017)? Slightly from above, it seems, but floating. Maybe we are looking down at them, maybe we are at the same level. We are beyond watching, beyond the spectacular, in an encompassing, polymorphous, inclusive point of view. In the gallery’s annex, Cognée’s paintings of buildings are not as interesting, simple formal artworks tackling on decomposition, limited spaces, too easily identifiable shapes –no mystery there.
A title taken from Edgar Allan Poe
Original publication date by Lunettes rouges: February 12, 2017.
Translation by Lucas Faugère