Saltwater Skies

2024/07/06 - 2024/09/07
Bldg 105, 199 Hengshan Road 200031 Shanghai China
DUMONTEIL Shanghai is delighted to present Saltwater Skies, showcasing French artist Bruno Gadenne’s newly developed pictorial series from his three months backpacking around the waters of Southeast Asia. This is the artist's second solo exhibition with the gallery. The artist, known for his jungle landscapes, now invites viewers to explore the hidden depths of the ocean, its beauty and fragility through his poetic narratives that celebrate the wild underwater world.

23/11/23, Tambaron Island, Philippines The sun changes everything when you're snorkelling. The purples, the greens, the yellows become dazzling, glorious. 
Travel Diary, B.Gadenne
This exhibition is an invitation to take a closer look at what lies beneath the surface of the ocean.

Bruno Gadenne has been painting pristine jungle landscapes for the past 15 years and felt the need to challenge himself with a change of scenery. He spent three months last winter backpacking around the South China Sea (from the Philippines to Cambodia through Vietnam) with his tent, machete, and a few art supplies in his bag.

He obtained his diving license, which opened up the door to a new world and new landscapes: an underwater realm of corals, turquoise waters, fish, turtles, and anemones.
Using a diving sketchbook with plastic pages and coloring pencils, Gadenne did some drawing underwater while snorkeling but mostly took thousands of photographs and videos to create a personal database for this series of paintings.

03/02/24, Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia
I swam for 20 minutes towards the open sea, far from the beach, to discover some wonderful corals and an incredible field of anemones! A few clown fishes (big ones, maroon with a white dorsal line) take shelter in their tentacles.
Travel Diary, B.Gadenne
Back in the studio, Gadenne usually modifies his pictures quite a lot before painting them, changing the light, colors, and composition. However, he found that the photographs he took underwater already had the uncanny aspect he longs for in his work. A sense of eerie, blurred, and bluish backgrounds helped him create a strong sense of depth in this series of landscapes. This oil painting series was challenging nonetheless, due to the new color palette he had to work with and the infinite level of details in the coral structures, which he had to simplify one way or another. He wanted to render the density of the water and its surreal colors at the same time.

This exhibition also features a series of oil pastel drawings, which Gadenne describes as a great balance between the underwater coloring pencils drawings he did on-site and his oil painting practice in the studio. It allowed him a more spontaneous approach to rendering the different colors and textures of this immersed world, playing with contrasts of hues and saturations and looking for interesting compositions in the chaotic-looking rocks and corals one can find on a reef.
17/11/23, Puerto Galera, Philippines
First swim in the middle of the corals, nearly completely bleached. I do see, among the grey skeletons, a few blue-green sea cucumbers, the only hint of life in this bay, or should I say cemetery.
Travel Diary, B.Gadenne
During his travels, Gadenne witnessed firsthand the devastation of natural landscapes and its inhabitants (our species included) caused by human society, from the mines of the Cordillera in Bolivia to the burnt forests of Borneo. He is very concerned about these issues. In the last 30 years, we have lost 50% of the world's coral. 

Do we need trees? Do we need forests? Do we need coral reefs? Or can we just live in the ashes of all of that ?” 
Chasing Coral, a 2017 documentary 
Gadenne emphasizes that while his work is based on real-life experiences, he is not a documentary painter. He feels a duty, though, to show through his work the beauty and wonders of what's left of the virgin landscapes and to share it with the public. He hopes this new series can begin to change the lack of collective imagery of artistic visions of seascapes. We are in dire need of a new narrative, one that focuses on the poetry of the wild world.

A world where the sky is made of saltwater.