DUMONTEIL Shanghai is delighted to present My Side of the Mountain, the solo exhibition of French artist Vincent Cazeneuve. This is the artist's third solo show with the gallery, showcasing his most recent practice in the last two years after his resettlement in the Daba Mountains in central China. Featuring nearly twenty works, including several large-scale pieces, the exhibition encompasses his insightful research into ancient Yi lacquer culture, while continuing his exploration of materials and craftsmanship across time.
What he presents is China in his eyes, the traditional craftsmanship of China. He brings life to this skill (lacquer), the renaissance of intangible cultural heritage. Vincent has explored a path — the idea of a modern artist, but rooting the ancient skills in modern life. And he finds new soil for an old seed to grow and to bloom. And that is what we call innovation.
– Liu Guanzhong, Professor, School of Fine Arts, Tsinghua University
Cazeneuve's continuing research into the history of lacquer and its related traditional crafts has been an important catalyst for his work, enabling him to break the constraints of traditional concepts such as lacquer painting and lacquerware and create his own 'abstract totem'. The millennia-old lacquer culture of the Yi people has been the focus of Cazeneuve's research over the past two years. The use of lacquer penetrates all areas of Yi's social life, and what most impresses the artist is the ancient Yi leather armour, which inspires one of the highlights of the exhibition. The main body of the work is based on the armour skirt that consists of hundreds of small lacquered pieces joined together with leather strips, topped with a rice-bag fragment painted with copper-coloured lacquer, and later adorned with abstract symbols in iron powder. The tones, shapes and textures of each part of the work contrast and react, resulting in an aesthetic complexity.
In addition to the lacquer culture of the Yi people, some of the works also make use of the well-known eggshell inlay and mother-of-pearl inlay techniques of traditional Chinese lacquer, as well as the coiling and weaving techniques of rattan and bamboo prevalent in Southeast Asian lacquer. The diversity and plasticity of these approaches provide the artist with rich visual material, while the sentiments carried forward from generation to generation create a strong bond of cultural memory. By incorporating all these aspects of craftsmanship into his creative vocabulary, Cazeneuve attempts to transcend the expression of 'object' with its creation.
The exhibition also offers an overview of the artist's practice during the past few years with several large-scale works, including a five-panel folding screen inspired by the Art Deco period and the artist's largest rice-bag-fabric supported lacquer piece to date. The ruffled texture of the rice bag is reflected in the polished gold leaves, like a sunlit mountain range, rocky and yet fluid like the waves of the sea. In the centre of the work, the colour variations of the natural lacquer (creamy white, brown and black) are used to ignite the initial form of life, the origin of nature.
Abundant in lacquer trees and bamboo forests, the Daba Mountains provide Cazeneuve with an otherworldly working and living environment. From his side of the mountain, the artist watches the clouds move through the mountains, and the sun rises and sets. Each day, he walks from his home through the lacquer forest to his studio, contemplating, observing the growth of the lacquer trees and listening to the sounds of nature, while the bamboo weaving material immediately available in the forest also facilitates the artist's creative experiments. It is essential for Cazeneuve to build an emotional connection with the materials he uses, and to feel their transformation in his hands.
Vincent Cazeneuve's passionate study of lacquer culture is driven by his pursuit of profoundness and eternity in art. He believes that a piece of art should be equally appreciated and valued regardless of its time – a thousand-year-old artefact, an antique from the last century, or a contemporary multimedia installation. It is the efforts of each generation that have culminated in the creativity of humanity. One can only leave a mark that is strong enough to resist death if one strives to create, to learn new techniques, to overcome technical and material difficulties. The artist looks forward to his work encountering the civilisation of the next millennium.
Press release courtesy DUMONTEIL Shanghai.