les presses du réel
Part of what's happening
Olivier Kaeppelin
(excerpt, p. 8)

The first word that comes to mind as I think of the work of Damien Cabanes is the word solitude. Solitude of his work in its day which, disregarding movements and fashions, asserts itself in its demandingness, its necessity.
Damien Cabanes is not isolated, he is at the centre of current international affairs in the arts and in dialogue with artists of every generation, whether close to his own preoccupations or otherwise. He is not isolated, he is alone. His work is produced with no indulgence towards these aesthetic ‘flavours of the month' that we are supposed to adapt to, but in the untiring pursuit of pictorial or sculptural territories favourable to his subject matter, whatever it may be. His art seeks to construct them for it to appear and deploy in a presence enlivened by surprises and puzzles. This subject matter is not readily definable; it is best summed up by saying ‘any human thing supposed to be complete must be for that very reason infallibly faulty' (1).
There is something paradoxical about hoping to attain the fullness of a human thing, the heart radiant with what is, whilst knowing that, to do so, one must never give in to the desire for perfection. Perfection is deceptive and leads astray. It loses one in the control or skill that causes the subject of the search to be overlooked. This is a temptation that, with such dazzling technique, Damien Cabanes can face. He never gives in to it because what he experiments first and foremost, in each work, is human nature, the nature of things that only exist in the manifestation of an unstable substance composed of failure, defection and deception. Strangely, this state of affairs, this ‘phenomenon', produces no melancholy, no depression, but just the opposite, an energy composed of intensities, acmes, chasms, disorder, movements, non-sense, that generate a subdued joy of action, play, spending, carrying us off into the body, the landscape, the virtual infinites of the abstract form. This refusal to give in to a smooth, balanced consistency, accompanied by the philosophical statement of its opposite through the ‘infallibly faulty', makes Damien Cabanes' position similar to that of writers like Herman Melville or Ezra Pound, and also Jean Dubuffet, Lucian Freud, or certain Art Brut artists, who are a great passion of his.
The effect of this determination, the acceptance of this contradictory proposition, playing on the humour and absurdity of the ‘infallibly faulty', results in causal reasoning in order to gain productive freedom. It triggers an extreme attention or a fascination for an unknown territory in which paths are opened up towards so many new lives.


1 In Herman Melville, Moby Dick, quoted by Peter Szendy in Les Prophéties du Texte-Léviathan, p. 118, Les Éditions de Minuit, 2004.

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