Philippe Cognée easily accommodated the long period of confinement. His life will not have been so much changed by this moment of pause, shared by the entire population. In his studio in Vertou (Loire-Atlantique), on the peaceful outskirts of Nantes, surrounded by trees and flowers which he takes great care of, this affable but fundamentally lonely artist, who lived much of his childhood and of his adolescence in Benin – where his father was a teacher – took advantage of this suspended time to complete a bulky work, 8 meters high by 4 meters wide, a tower forming a kind of hourglass, commissioned by the Departmental Center from the Isère archives.
A titanic site to which he thought he should devote more time: “I’m a little obsessive. Beyond the stress that this virus brings and all the questions that go with it, this confinement helped me to think only about this subject without being entertained by anything else. I may be working less densely and yet surely more ”, explains this former winner of the Villa Medici (in 1990). This curious period will necessarily have an influence on his future work. There is always time “To absorb a subject before spitting it out in a pictorial form, to understand how one can translate emotions and impressions, because a painting is not just a simple illustration”.
A technique all his own
His distance from Paris and his installation in this house-workshop gave this artist, born in 1957, the opportunity to refine for years his unique technique, based on research of images captured on the Net, and on the use beeswax, heated with an iron and then crushed by a plastic film, which he uses as a binder, instead of oil or acrylic, to make his colors. The uneven texture and the relief of the painted surfaces, producing a blurred effect, stamp his trademark, whatever the themes he exploits: contemporary architecture like low-cost buildings, supermarket shelves, tagged houses or everyday objects, from an ordinary fridge to a simple chair.
Philippe Cognée regularly changed the theme according to his instincts. Over the years, his work, which legitimately adorns the collections of the Center Pompidou, the Fondation Cartier or the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, has never stopped evolving.
Moving landscapes in Chaumont-sur-Loire
The fields, wild or cultivated, and the forests which surround it represent an inexhaustible and continuous source of inspiration. He recently exhibited at the Templon gallery in Paris, to which he has been linked since 2003, an impressive series of flowers withered or in a state of advanced decay. These sunflowers, peonies, roses or amaryllis spring like metaphors from human flesh, evoking the fragility of passing time. Whether he paints an urban, bucolic environment or even a portrait, all his subjects carry with them this double dimension of disintegration and rebirth.
When public places can reopen, this painter “Of the world as it is” will reveal around thirty large canvases in the galleries of the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire (Loir-et-Cher), a place which is dear to him (1). This regular visitor to the Art Season and the Garden Festival cherished the hope that Chantal Colleu-Dumond, the Director of the Estate, sooner or later invited him to exhibit. By presenting his landscapes in movement, Philippe Cognée follows in the footsteps of Edouard Manet, of whom he boasts “ the incredible modernity of painting. ” But, unlike the great Impressionist masters, he does not put his easel in front of an inspiring panorama, considering that the artist of today no longer lives “At the same time of contemplation”.
→ REPORTAGE. Gardens of paradise in Chaumont-sur-Loire
In this society of frantic speed and the omnipresence of screens which encourage, in a reflex that has become universal, to “ film to watch next », he treats landscapes in a different way, scrolling through snowy forests or bushy paths, through the window of a car or train, increasing the emotional and nostalgic power of his original pictorial proposals. The common feature, at bottom, of all of his work, as dense as it is profuse.
His inspiration: contemporary figurative painters
In the early 1990s, Philippe Cognée was unhappy in Rome, in residence at the Villa Medici where ” work (him) seemed a little artificial ”. He begins to be interested in contemporary figurative painters such as the German Gerhard Richter and the French Gérard Gasiorowski, “For their rebellious side but also because they integrated the world around them into their work”.
Later, the seaside landscapes of Malcolm Morley and the approach of Italian artist Francesco Clemente, proclaiming in an art magazine “No longer want to get tired of looking for a subject while everything was around it”, have opened a way for him to flourish: “I was looking for such a sentence. It justified the state in which I wanted to be. “