Clément Denis investigates the barriers of communication at the crossroads of the human condition, utilizing various materials including mosaic and painting in his work. His anthropological investigations result in a series of portraits of individuals that he invites to feel a shared state of uncertainty and confusion. Emotions that are a prerequisite to the act of painting for him.
For the past ten years, Denis has engaged with figments of memory and explored the body as a site of consciousness in his painting practice. Over time his works have evolved from dark and rich tableaus to more expansive works with sinuous lines and a bright, acidulated palette. In 2021, the lockdown due to pandemic led him to Noirmoutier where a premonitory dream inspired him a new series – “The river song”. In it he saw an island and his family home engulfed by water, with only the treetops and the roof emerged. His work ponders over the affect of relentless climate change and its consequences on nature, as well as man’s initiatory path faced with an impending unavoidable calamity.
LE CHANT DU FLEUVE
In 2018 Clément had written his end of study memoir at the Beaux-Arts untitled: Et si tout avait déjà changé ? Systèmes économiques versus climat, And if all had already changed? Economic systems versus climate. In a wide historical survey starting with the Big Bang, he showed man’s place in nature, his relation to nature and his interaction with nature. He concluded with the anxious existential question haunting the 21th century: To change or to disappear? In 2021 the lockdown led him to Noirmoutier where a premonitory dream inspired him a new series, The river song. In it he saw the island and his family home engulfed into water, only the treetops and the roof emerged. For three months he pondered over the relentless climatic change and its consequences on nature, as well as man’s initiatory path faced with the impending unavoidable calamity. […]
In River song he reaches at an initiatory pantheism translating the nostalgia of a disappearing world in a remarkable vision of man and nature. Paradoxically it is on the shores of the Atlantic that he evokes the river, the Loire of his childhood. He makes of it a solid blue matter, alive and shimmering with golden hues. Man faces himself, in surrendering to the element he is dissolved but not petrified like Ophelia, he is now absorbed by the water of Memory and Knowledge. In its whirlpools are concealed the esoteric symbols of various religions and philosophical beliefs, in a visual and metaphysical syncretism expressed through a complex repetition of motifs. Among them appear the Egyptian ibis, the Celtic Triskèle of the Britons, the Yōkai, incarnation of the mysterious and ghostly Japanese spirits mentioned in a title. The titles describe the metaphysical aspect of his thinking: The wave, Pop Hokusai : The dreamer, Body tectonic, Plug, Whirlpool, Duel, then in a second subtitle taken from science-fiction of a subterranean world; Underworld : Hokai in time, Dreams creator, Obsessional introspection as a triptych, and finally a whole gallery of birds’ portraits: Birds left as imprint. […]
Clément introduces in this series a new and totally original visual language. He uses the symmetry of the composition and the repetition of motifs to create a hypnotic and hallucinatory effect where colour, light and strange forms from a fantastic world merge, blend and engage in a dissonant symphony. The human figures are also absorbed by the syncopated rhythm around a central axis. He says that he produces a mirror image alluding to the two levels of reality and of the consciousness in water, using the Bird’s Language on a play on the word eau, l’eau de là, the water here and l’au-delà, the other world. The human bodies also become a repetitive decorative motif in this aquatic world quivering with a strange energy, which could be printed on an oriental textile or decorate a ceramic.
*Extract of Clément Denis - Ut pictura poesis by Monique Riccardi Cubbitt, chapter Water as a matrix of the world
By dint of their travels they have blended, melted and merged, thus unintentionally forming the sublime abstraction of their wanderings.