Chicago I

Philippe Cognée

Date : 2005

Medium : Painting

Size : 250 X 150 cm

Wax paint on canvas. © ADAGP.

In the early Eighties, Philippe painted figures and mythological scenes. He made roughly hewn wood sculptures. In the Nineties and 2000 plus, he developed a new process. He took photographs or made videos with a camcorder, printing photos that become encaustic paintings on wood or canvas which, in the last stage, are crushed with a household iron.
The encaustic, or wax paint, gives his paintings a particular aspect as he endeavours to dilute the shape in the material. In 2003, he painted a new series of pictures of animal bodies, carcasses seen in the slaughterhouse.
His present canvases have been inspired by views of satellites retransmitted live via the Internet. His disproportional views of Chicago, New York or Los Angeles describe an abstract, labyrinthine landscape, where notions of scale and perspective are abolished.

The guide

Cloudy vision?
No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. But you can't quite make it out.
What can you see, from a distance?
At first all you can see is a cold, grey palette livened up by the red in the lower part of the work. The eye is drawn towards it. Then the urban architecture made up of a dense network of buildings begins to appear. It is an aerial view, as if the artist was trying to crush the tall buildings below. Then you notice that the shape of these invincible buildings is echoed in the tall rectangular shape of the canvas and the white mass in the foreground.

The artist, Philppe Cognée, has come up with an extraordinary technique. How does he achieve it?
He generally paints a realistic image based on a photograph by mixing pigments with encaustic (wax), and then places the canvas on the ground. This is when the magic begins. He covers the paint with a film of transparent plastic and melts the wax by ironing the canvas. This is when the artist's creative work begins. The picture’s blurred aspect is completely controlled by the artist.

Take a closer look. Notice the effects of the material, the ruggedness and the blending of the colours. The subject slowly disappears, and the paint itself becomes the subject of the work.
The first figurative painting gives way to a second abstract one.