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*exhibition produced with the kind support of la galerie Claire Gastaud
*catalogue of works to be published with the generous participation of Clermont-Communauté
In conjunction with the exhibition, le Creux de l’enfer is producing a bilingual French/English catalogue as part of the ‘My steps to take’ collection, with support from Clermont Communauté and Galerie Claire Gastaud in Clermont-Ferrand.
With the participation of the Fontaines pétrifiantes de Saint-Nectaire and Mr and Mrs Papon. www.fontaines-petrifiantes.fr
Exhibition : 12th October 2011 – 29th January 2012
télécharger le communiqué de presse
by Frédéric Bouglé, November 2010
Roland Cognet lives in Auvergne, at the foot of the Puys mountain range and teaches at Clermont Métropole School of Arts. At the beginning of the 1980s this artist set himself a challenge, to catalyse four fundamental essences in one sculptural body : mineral ; plant ; animal and human. His skilful hands achieved it, and if the work along the way opened to new registers, his project did not veer off course. The artist has positioned himself in historical affiliation with concrete American and French sculpture : Mark Di Suvero ; Tony Grand ; Robert Morris ; Bruce Nauman ; Martin Puryear ; and is fond of key figures such as Michael Fried and Etienne-Martin, whom he knew very well.
In 1992, Roland Cognet participated in a group exhibition at le Creux de l’enfer*. In the same year, the FRAC Auvergne acquired two of his sculptures, followed by a third in 2002. In 1995, Dominique Marchès organised an individual exhibition for the artist at the Vassivière Contemporary Art Centre in Limousin where he produced the ‘Casting’ sculpture in the sculpture park. In 2003, Anthony Caro invited him to the Triangle Artists’ Workshop and he accomplished a set of works at Pine Plains, in New York. Subsequently, the Philip I. Bermen collection in Philadelphia acquired four significant works. The Galerie Claire Gastaud regularly presents his work and in 2004 the Roger-Quilliot Art Museum in Clermont-Ferrand dedicated an exhibition to him. In autumn 2011 his work will fill the Thiers Art Centre and a book will accompany the event in its ‘Mes pas à faire au Creux de l’enfer’ (My Steps to take at le Creux de l’enfer) collection.
Technique employed like deployed thinking Time-matter to sculpt
There certainly is cogito in the gestural technique ; a revelatio felt by Roland Cognet still a child in the paternal studio : the technique employed is deployed thinking. This leitmotiv on closer inspection, applied to formal results, follows a demanding approach to contemporary sculpture. The work pursues a far from simple ambition and which demands the art of craftiness, like an animal embarking upon logs : to directly and audaciously confront the powerful creation of nature as well as the nature of materials forming time, unsculptable matter which thereby finds provision to be sculpted in time-matter.
They are imposing, rough-hewn or entire tree trunks, monolithic blocks, hybrid blocks, warm and woody materials from oak, ash or fir plantations and pine forests, regional volcanic rock, hard and cold granite from everywhere, hard steel, stainless steel, zinc, bronze and lead. Each piece, each series breaks new ground with its work method, if necessary combining the modelling of indurated matter : cement ; plaster ; resin. Sculpture is therefore established as postural, fortifying inner space, measuring up against the landscape, indexing its values or glorifying it. And if the matter is perishable like wood, the artist addresses it through the following choice of gestures : caparison ; protect ; cast ; support ; paint ; extend ; dig ; care for and even cauterize. And if the challenge seems impossible to meet, a gantry crane will pull the mass upwards.
Mast sculptures dedicated to giants
With Roland Cognet’s strong intentions and knowledge from interventions and repeated visits to Canada and the United States, sculptural expression unabatedly took shape in ever increasing circles. His approach, through cycles of tempo, tackled other peripheral styles : charcoal ; paint ; engraving ; photo ; video ; He acquired a rare control of the methods discussed within his studio. A type of mast sculpture resulted from it, at times so tall that they seem destined only for mythical beings, giant Gods or for another place, Ouranos, Gaia or Guadalajara.
Natural Deconstruction Work handled with a principle of equivalence
At the height of the popularity of the assemblage of objects and manufactured materials, these enormous busts of aged trees, these solidly steel clad trunks, as if equipped to brave and resist all weathers, are weighed up differently. We marvel at these superhuman scale sculptures, this phloem of exposed sapwood, this invented bark hollowed out with scissors and mallet in a gentle swash of undulating furrows. In short, in order to compare one to the other and both with a principle of equivalence, like this pair of sculptures which resemble each other and will have to grow old together, each one living its corrosion even if one is wood and the other cement, both subject to the fate brought by the rain and wind : noble and vulgar ; mineral and plant ; the original and the copy ; the moulded and the sculpted ; you need to circumnavigate this section of secular sequoia, then to look back at its double, its hardened twin, along with Casting 1995-1996, in the Vassivière-en-Limousin Art Centre park. In other words we are at the beginning of a tale the purpose of which probably escapes us.
These sculptures placed inside or out are very strange in fact ; they appear to follow a temporal destiny not belonging to the author, as though to be alleviated. The surface patterns may be repeated on a raised totem or another recumbent statue, their imposing presence however smiles ironically in the perishable infinity of the resolutely left trace. Other sculptures are accompanied by anthropomorphic figures, the headpiece cast with an animal or petrified hominid emblem, as if someone in the distance, in the silence of a forest, in the echo of a valley, was observing us.
Make a merry-go-round of studios spin in our head
As for the sculpture studio, the work’s birthplace, its fundamental referents are in a calculated arrangement, returning to small blocks of iron or wood, and a reversal of its first principal. These are modest subjects, figurines, scaled down animals, plants and common garden huts, small volumes assembled in a simplified landscape, the ensemble of which is organised on a sort of familiar piece of furniture, a trestle table workbench, with stabilized by short legs. ‘If you know the plan, you cannot get lost,’ wrote Le Clézio. To live and to create indeed is to experiment, to explore your passion without drifting or losing it. There on a plank of solid wood, a work surface and cutting board, playful and light abstract and figurative forms, at times precariously balanced, enjoy a confidential planimetered nature, softly coloured intimist scenes. The scale reduced to the size of a socle in order to consider the previous issues, demands less mobility both to produce and observe the object. Platon thought about the world on the scale of a single city, seeing small things in big amounted to seeing big things in small, just like seeing the infant against the chest of a black Virgin. Here, it is not about enclosing the work in a backyard nor reducing it to its inner core, it needs to be further reconstructed in his intracranial studio, on the scale of the model formed by everyone’s imagination. With this miniature series of works by Roland Cognet, turning around means moving, to create spinning studios in our head without making our feet ache.
Large wood engravings From bas-relief to paper print
In L’œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproductibilité technique, Walter Benjamin notes that, ‘with wood engraving we succeed in reproducing drawing for the first time, long before printing permitted the reproduction of writing.’ Xylography indeed, in the etymological sense ‘writing on wood,’ is also the last reproducible technique which requires hard manual labour ; and it is moreover with Roland Cognet the support itself, as well as its print, which will be exploited, the first half-carved from its base, the subject painted by rubbing, returning sculpture to the picture. Thus revealed, hollowed and worked, the woodblock then acquires a status of bassorilievo.
Paper print :
Roland Cognet’s sculpture which is an open window to the world and the forces of nature, to discreet humour and to all sorts of associations, finds expression for his flat blocks within this series of sombre and captivating wall mediums, and which reflect his inner nature, he himself, reflecting this other which has a hidden influence which is not listened to enough. These are large wood engraving prints, deep, intense black majestic screens, and whose ink in its adhesion to the paper, like burning summer tar, makes it almost glimmering. The black pigment paste meticulously covers its stretched support ; the mysteries of an unknown art, nevertheless leaving a little white clarity, a spared contour, just on the edge.
The concept of ‘conceivable sculpture’ by Roland Cognet Dominant nature, nature dominated
The artist’s view of the natural environment, photos or videos, summits of tall breathtaking trees against a supreme blue sky or large oceanic cetaceans filmed in the Saint-Laurent estuary ; in short nature, dominant nature, with similar entities has such power that our perceptive culture, in its Eclidean grid, cannot apprehend its realism. That is why other resolutions will be assumed that way ; a scale of apprehension identified for dominated nature, and which sometimes requires the refuge of a folded geometrical model. From sculpture on a fractal scale to sculpture of a mental landscape, in the layout of the elements within our reach, we reach the concept of ‘conceivable sculpture’ defended by Roland Cognet. Sculpture reconstructed on a more intimate chequer board, but with hypertrophied playful perception.
‘Actually, perhaps we should keep on trying’ announces however Roland Cognet, referring with amusement to a phrase phase that all creators know, without proclaiming it. For this individual exhibition on two floors at le Creux de l’enfer, the artist presents a selection of previously unseen pieces produced between 2009 and 2011, including monumental sculptures and portable sculptures, wood engravings, video and photos. The whole exhibition, with its open registers, affirms all the advantages of an entire, daring, patient and solitary work.
* Pour un couteau (For a Knife) exhibition 17th October – 6th December 1992 : Roland COGNET ; Denis FALGOUX ; Yves GUERIN ; Jacques MALGORN and Patrick SIRO. Curator : Laurence Gateau.