Philippe Cognée

Paysages insomniaques

With his new Insomniac Landscapes, Philippe Cognée once again demonstrates the power of his practice: a combination between his unconditional love of figurative painting, its rich history and unlimited formal potential, with the unwavering gaze of a contemporary man facing a world more disenchanted than ever.

Philippe Cognée – Insomniac Landscapes, TEMPLON Paris, 2022
Philippe Cognée – Insomniac Landscapes, TEMPLON Paris, 2022

For many years, Philippe Cognée has been tackling subjects often associated with the banality and ugliness of our civilization – supermarkets, highways, impersonal architecture – magnifying them through his technique of wax paint, which, once melted and crushed, creates a striking and unique effect of blur. In a nod to video, digital technology and the hypervigilance of Google Earth, his paintings offer a deconstruction of the contemporary gaze. They explore the notion of “recognizable”, of memory and oblivion, in an existential questioning on the “exhaustion of images”.

Philippe Cognée has now chosen to unfurl rural landscapes on the gallery walls. While his fields of poppies and sunflowers inescapably evoke the outdoors so cherished by the Impressionists, from Monet to Van Gogh, the scenery shapes a far more stifling reality. Cut into diptychs or triptychs, strangely deserted, frozen in an ambiguous light, these pieces of familiar countryside are as fascinating as they are disturbing.

Their apparent immutability, criss-crossed by vivid or even incongruous colours, their dripping or scratched surfaces, suggest a resistance; resistance against realism, resistance against superficiality in the literal and figurative sense. Farmlands go back to nature and turn wild, forests seem haunted. Their majesty contrasts with a feeling of imminent disappearance, each landscape bearing witness to an irreconcilable misunderstanding between nature and humanity.

A subtle commentary on the changes affecting the rural world as well as our relationship with the environment, this series mirrors the climate anxiety that has now gripped our societies. There is no possibility of rest in these sleepless landscapes, neither for nature nor the viewer nor the painter. Nature, obeying its own laws, seems to be slipping away and the artist, stunned by so much beauty about to perish, leaves viewers to grapple with their own dilemma: to contemplate the apocalypse or to act.

Sous le soleil, savane 3


The artist

Philippe Cognée was born in 1957 in Nantes, France, where he lives and works. His paintings use wax that is heated and crushed, producing a blurred effect and raising questions such as the thinning away of the image and the human condition in the light of humans’ relationship to their urban environment. The artist draws inspiration from photos and videos of elements such as motorways, buildings and aerial shots. His work questions the role of art in a society where new digital technologies have ushered in the era of the image, both omnipresent and diminished.

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