DUMONTEIL Shanghai is pleased to present Tropical Insomnia, French artist Bruno GADENNE's first solo exhibition in China, featuring a series of nocturnal scenes created after a 3 months trip in Central America. The artist invites us to reconsider the relationship between man and nature in the digital age and to experience the mysterious and magical beauty of nature through his research-expedition-based work.
Marching in the footsteps of Gauguin, Delacroix, Sargent and so many others, Bruno Gadenne renews the long tradition of the travelling painter. In the winter of 2019, he retraced the itinerary of explorers Stephens and Catherwood deep into the jungle of Honduras and Guatemala, who re-discovered many lost Mayan cities and temples. Travelling very light but for a small backpack filled with gouache painting materials, a machete and a hammock, B. Gadenne collected images of the primary forest that helped him create large-scale oil paintings once back in his Parisian studio.
As in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's movie Tropical Malady, which the title of the exhibition is directly paying homage to, we follow our protagonist, here painter Bruno Gadenne, deep into the jungle where he experiences near-mystical encounterings, the tiger of the movie replaced here by the always-out-of-sight jaguar. Traces of wild animals are directly visible as in “The path”, where the spectator is invited to follow the prints of a large jaguar, leading us ever deeper into the dark and lush vegetation.
The rendering of light in Gadenne's painting is often intriguing. We can not really tell what time of day or night it is: the scenes are shrouded in a bluish wash when it's not altogether an intriguing blood-red atmosphere like a cosmic anomaly, part apocalyptic, part redemption. These distinctive tones are critical to the 'mood' of each work. They are achieved by the artist's unconventional use of the glazing technique—a highly developed painting technique in the Renaissance era—to play with the optics of our eyes.
One has to hope that a diplomat gone into the woods to meet other living creatures […] comes back transformed, calmly feral, far from the whimsical savagery attributed to others. That the one who let himself run wild with them comes back a little bit different from his “were- travel”[like a werewolf]: a mixed-blood, straddling between two worlds. Nor sinful nor purified, just other and capable of slightly travelling between the worlds, and trying to get them to communicate, in order to implement a common world.
"Sur la piste animale", Baptiste Morizot
Bruno Gadenne is a “diplomat”, as coined by philosopher/tracker Baptiste Morizot: an ambassador of the tropical forests to the city dwellers, someone trying to bridge the gap between the artificial world of humans and the wildness of the animal one. Through his travels and the resulting paintings, the artist acts as a contemporary shaman, bringing the sights of primaeval forests back into our busy cities. Questioning our relationship with Nature, he leads us back not at the centre but as a part of the grand scheme of the natural world.