untitled (Pailhes), 2015, pencil on paper, 16 x 13 cm
Fragments 2016/2017, charcoal on paper 70 x 50 cm
Syagrus, 2016, charcoal on paper, 160 x 120 cm

In his first exhibition at CONRADS, Romain Cadilhon presented three groups of works featuring graphite or charcoal on paper, which were surprising in their essential diversity. The title of the series provides the first hint as to the artist's intended subtext .

 

The group of “Liminals” show abstract light and dark traces of charcoal dust on paper. “Liminality”, a term coined by the ethnologist, Victor Turner, refers to a state in which individuals or groups find themselves when they have ritually dissolved themselves from the dominant social order [...] During the liminal phase, the individuals find themselves in an ambivalent state. The taxonomies of (everyday) social structure have been suspended. In a kind of limbo, individuals have neither the qualities of their previous state nor those of their condition to be.  The title refers to the process involved in developing these works.

 

Cadilhon creates seemingly immaterial zones of darkness and shade by repeatedly blowing layers of charcoal dust across the surface of the paper. This gives rise to the lighter section in the middle of the sheet and the progressive darkening toward the periphery with attendant fluid transitions. The shades of grey oscillate between an absolute black and a pure white. The sheet's two-dimensional surface dissolves due to the scaling of brightness across the paper and is transformed into a seemingly domed, three-dimensional form, the inner core of which rises to the surface like a pale, luminescent orb.

 

Light and shade are similarly the main protagonists in the most recent series "Drawings for a sculpture". Powerful and yet highly nuanced, Cadilhon uses charcoal in classical chiaroscuro style in a range of ever changing lights and perspectives in his drawing of the head of a young woman. However, the artist made a cast of his model and then proceeded to work on the resulting sculpture, repeatedly drawing sections of it in alternating light conditions. Despite the high degree of naturalistic execution in the drawings, light and shade tend to conceal the motif rather than delineate it. The resulting defamiliarisation, despite extreme proximity, creates a sense of distance to the motif. Abstraction and naturalism play an equal role in the overall effect of the composition. 

 

The seemingly photorealistic miniatures from the group of works entitled  "Studio" are snapshots of his studio in the style of Dutch genre painting. The tiniest individual details and physical substance of the studio are meticulously recreated in a series of minute pencil drawings. The light plays on furniture, art materials, works in progress, plants and other objects.  Thus, he creates a visual world, which is more reminiscent of a sophisticated painting of a baroque interior than a photograph. These works are to be shown for the first time in an art museum context in the exhibition "Aufschlussreiche Räume – Interieur als Portrait | Revelatory Rooms  – Interior Portraits", Museum Morsbroich Leverkusen, 2016. Writing about the  “Studio” drawings, the curator of the show, Fritz Emslander, observes that "[…] if you immerse yourself in these drawn interiors, in this existence, then it almost seems as if you might know the artist, know that he listens to quiet music while drawing, that first of all he opens the curtains in front of the high windows to let in as much daylight as possible and to be able to work in the most concentrated, thoughtful and careful way imaginable".

 

Capturing one's own perceptions in the studio in a series of drawings – free from external constraints and influences, engaged in a highly concentrated work process – engenders an element of freedom which clearly resonates in Cadilhon's works. 

 

 

"At a time when life itself is in decline, there has never been so much talk of civilization and culture. And there is a strange correlation between this universal collapse of life at the root of our present day demoralization and our concern for a culture that has never tallied with life but is made to tyrannize it."

 

Antonin Artaud, The Theatre and its Double, Paris, 1938.