I inhale, am I penetrated? I exhale, so I penetrate? Where am I, really? Other than at the edge of you and me, of day and night? Other than at the edge of time?
I exhale, or is it you, the world, that inhales me? I inhale, or is it you, the world, that exhales me? What do I exhale, my past or the world's future? What do I inhale, the world's past or my future?
Between exhaling and inhaling, to be male or female, you and me, between inhaling and exhaling, to be two in one.
Beyond the creator and the creature, the tree or the lung, the world or my word, to co-create the atmo-sphere, to engender what engenders us. Breath is our parent and our child, breathing us while we breathe it. And whether the inhaling be uterine or the exhaling seminal, the past maternal or future paternal, mine feminine and yours masculine, the child is always now and the I is born from the heart of this suspense.
- Fabrice Samyn
The Cloud Library
The Cloud Library The Cloud Library is a work that is both sculptural and performative.Throughout the exhibition, Samyn has been shaping “clouds” that he observed through the window of the room. The procedure is based on the artist’s breath (one inhalation + one exhalation = one cloud made). The instability of the cloud is reinforced by the fleeting quality of breath, however the attempt is futile: the three-dimensional shape of a cloud can never be grasped or correctly reproduced from a terrestrial viewpoint.
The Depth of Sky Djebel Irhoud is an archaeological cave site in Morocco where the oldest fossils attributed to homo sapiens have been found. Fabrice Samyn commissioned the staff to dig up stones resembling clouds and send them to him.
Skyfall A blue stone, sculpted to resemble a cloud. The work embodies several dualities, such as heavy and lightweight, permanent and ephemeral.
The Common Demiurge An installation of twelve brushes attached to the wall, each dipped into paint resembling the colors of the sky at various times of day or night. To Samyn, the sky is “like a canvas that we breathe and walk through and call empty – the sky that every morning and night is fired by the sun from or to darkness in a cycle of birth. The sky paints itself, but sometimes we need to paint it in order to see it.”
Inhaling the Dawn Two dried agave flowers, their flower heads carefully painted in various shades of the sky at sunrise, one upright and one bowing down. The protruding flower heads resemble anatomical models of the human lung, creating an analogy between the sunrise and inhalation, and explaining the work’s title.
Twilight’s Gaze is a series of six canvases of which three are larger and three smaller formats. Painted in photorealist style, they each depict a blazing wooden idol in various stages of burning, from a recognizable figure to a mere silhouette. Several layers of meaning merge in these works. The wooden statue is a representation of Moses, while the fire references the biblical miracle of the burning bush, which burns but is not consumed by the fire: Yahweh appears in the burning bush, speaking directly to Moses. Another association would be the fourth commandment given to Moses, where, according to Exodus 20:4, the creation of idols is prohibited: You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Here, Moses himself is turned into an idol, and burnt to honor the fourth commandment, it seems. And yet, the representation of the sculpture’s destruction on these six paintings creates a new idol. To Samyn, Moses here is just a symbol in the process of “taming the invisible”, referring to Solipsism (the theory that the self is all that can be known to exist). When the self is destroyed, he asks, will the entire world collapse or just a representation of the world?
Moshe Samyn here has sourced an antique wood sculpture, originally from a church, and covered it in natural resin. Resin is “the blood of the tree”, as Samyn points out, so both the wood and its cover are reminders of the original material behind this representation: a living tree. The fragile cover of poured resin is also reminiscent of a glowing fire, moving this work into the vicinity of the Twilight’s Gaze paintings.
Via his restored paintings, Fabrice Samyn expresses a highly original pictorial research, by removing part of the varnish, in a very organised way, from old oil paintings that he did not paint. He works on pre-existing paintings, and works with the meticulous care of a restorer on these paintings to which he gives a new lease of life. Although he removes dirt that has accumulated over years, he does not seek to clean them in their entirety.
His action is not intended as restoration, but instead by a determination to challenge the concepts of time and the sacred through his work. Here the dirty varnish left in the eyes is the mask of time. The devarnished part around is indeed the only access to the painting in its original state.
View the exhibition Twilight's Gaze, 2021