ROMAIN CADILHON *1984, lives in Bruxelles – 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”, a mix of pigments like gold powder, silver graphit powder, Terre de Cassel… dust on paper show abstract light and dark traces.

“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.

ROOS VAN HAAFTEN *1983, Amsterdam

The Opposite of Optical Illusion

The imagery that Roos van Haaften (1983) creates seems to be dynamic and changeable every instant due to their virtuality. By using light to project emptiness and space around objects and figures, she shapes sinister photographic and filmic scenes. The work connects to the artistical concept of the ‘uncanny’, which is per definition equivocal. In her case the ‘mysterious’ and ‘uneasy’, which are prevalent in her work, are always revealed instead of hidden. Whereas the ‘uncanny’ usually contains a degree of illusionism – i.e. there is something invisible at work, that can merely be felt – that is typified by surprise and shock effects, the work of Roos van Haaften reveals both the method and the result. And yet the typical ‘suspense’ of the ‘uncanny’ remains present in her work. The eventual image is materially transparent and receives an immaterial effect through its objectiveness. The means with which she creates her images are everyday and futile. They are crumbs and dust, powders and pills, small scraps and left-overs. Those are openly exhibited on glass panes which she lights from different angles, having the multiplicitous projection cause a mostly desolately scenic or architectural highlight on the opposing wall. It is an image of appearance and being, a mirror image of the perception, a reflection on what we think we see, a mental image, a visual virtuality. Even though she certainly touches upon the genre, her work is never trompe l’oeil; it is quite the opposite of a visual illusion.

Before Roos van Haaften began her education in visual arts, she studied Theatre and Writing for Performance. During her bachelor Fine Art in Arnhem (NL) she started to apply theatre principles and especially incorporated the use of theatre light in her installation work and drawings. From the work, one can notice that she does not consider the image solely as a ‘bodily appearance’, nor as something three-dimensional (with a certain length, width, depth), such as the geometric figures we know as ‘platonic solids’. Her work is a clear reference to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, in which the philosopher explains his views about the human condition and the relationship between knowledge and reality. The premise of Plato in this allegory is that all humans perceive reality only through ‘shadow images’, and therefore have a distorted idea of existence. The shadows and reflections in the work of Van Haaften obviously have no ‘depth’ and this makes their interaction with the spatial objects that produce these shadows all the more enigmatic.


The idiosyncratic, standalone quality of her work is rooted in the ratio between the narrowly perceptible coverings of the glass panes that she builds and the amazing, nigh-literary literality of the projected image that she sets up with it. Through the expert use of theatre light – most always she puts the instruments of her work on the forefront as a substantial part of the total installation – her imagery convincingly forms self-reliant worlds. One cannot escape the notion that her multiplicitous arranged world views are a commentary on the way we live. In her work, our existence becomes vulnerable and gives rise to the idea that we can we wiped out at any moment, but we could also make something out of it that we never deemed possible. Through her work, we can raise ourselves up from our downtrodden position.

Alex de Vries, 2016

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