The paintings and drawings of these two artists are like a vibrating membrane between two worlds: the real and the composed. Density and transparency alternate in aerial, aquatic and terrestrial matter, the remaining essence of visions and impressions of observed and imagined landscapes. With an almost virtuoso colour sensitivity, Ivo Vonlanthen and Xavier Cardinaux hold a dialogue with each other through their works which are essentially about nature, landscape and the garden.
In the paintings of Xavier Cardinaux, suspended entangled objects on apparently simple surfaces slowly reveal hypnotic depths resembling celestial or undersea landscapes. Worlds emerge from this primordial and turbulent magma whose plant origins are preserved in the silhouettes of flowers and leaves. These paintings continually oscillate between reflections of reality and an abstract vortex which captures the attention of the onlooker and projects it into the meanders of sensual and viscous matter. Even when the garden is more obvious trees and hedges disappear very quickly into a pictorial language. Coloured splashes are juxtaposed and superposed and their undefined contours merge in the imprecision of the gesture which we sense is nearly subconscious, imparting freshness and spontaneity. This freedom of the hand is perhaps more obvious in the small paintings where, in a few strokes, the ghostly shapes of trees are born but is also present in more recent works where the artist succeeds in placing patches of colour while remaining at the limit of chaos. We sense the glow of the interlaced “Pluies de fleurs célestes” (Shower of Celestial Flowers), the title of a series depicting strange and unsettling blossoms invading the surface of the canvas in sinuous lines creating an undulating almost mythical rhythm.
Poetry is ubiquitous in the work of Xavier Cardinaux if only because the tone of the whole is given by a dominant colour which is emphasised by its opposite, in the same way as a poet chooses words according to their sound. Words are important to the artist as he shows by giving titles to most of his paintings. The small works, concentrated in a limited space, offer a miniature universe which seems to be the starting point for a monumental painting to come, although they are complete in themselves. As in nature, the different works of the artist are recognisable by an almost organic link such as the features that change with the season in the same landscape.
The contemplative and ethereal universe of Ivo Vonlanthen is suggested by a few lines or daubs of colour in a spare language he has developed over a number of years. From his first engravings of nervous interlacing lines, which gave a sustained rhythm to his compositions, to his most recent oil paintings of very rich solid colours, the main guiding idea is clear: the observation of nature is the indispensable starting point. He often works outside directly on light rice paper quickly recording his visual impressions with Chinese brushes, but also it seems, his aural and olfactory impressions. In his ink drawings we can sense a kind of urgent need to keep hold of the subtle and ephemeral feelings painstakingly collected. Ivo Vonlanthen’s drawings are close to haiku, a type of Japanese verse, and display an infinite array of nuances and feelings with similar economy. Painting is an indispensable counterpart to the drawings. Following a series in which the artist drew frail silhouettes of grasses and foliage in a layer of strong oil colours, the composition is complete without any scraping. The canvas is covered in daubs superimposed on each other and linked by similar hues, offering totally different moods even though constructed in similar ways. Liveliness and rapidity of gesture are visible together with the translation in pictorial tones of previous observations of the landscape. It is indeed landscapes once more with perhaps a wider angle of vision which has omitted the outlines of objects in order to leave simply their moods, a slow deconstruction by light. The analogy with photo pixelisation is latent although we can see here a much more complex process than simple decomposition of the image. The artist fragments in an attempt to find the essence of things, their intrinsic vibration which resonates like a song of the earth, the title given to the artist’s most recent series.
/// Ivo Vonlanthen
/// Xavier Cardinaux