ON RANOU KADI’S PAINTING
Unite or divide. Join together or split up, slowly, very slowly – it could take years or centuries. That is what first came to mind when I discovered Ranou Kadi’s painting like a strange field of action. A stage set for the enactment of muted tensions. The characters are blocs of raw and live material– a towering mass, a bust, a slab, a base, a stone body, a trophy. It can be strong, like hard stone, or soft, brittle and chalky. But most of the time it is reminiscent of monoliths, steles, menhirs or unfinished menhirs. And there is movement – oh, only a slight, imperceptible movement, invisible to the eye, made possible through the revelation of painting. His pictorial world is always on the limit between figuration and disfiguration; it can shift either way. Faces fade, vanish or resurface. The matter contains full-sized silhouettes, as well as oblong, mummified shapes lying down – in sarcophagi? Or erect propped up figures, as in expectance of an event.
Something happened, a long time ago, something is happening, something is going to happen. Time is fundamental in his work. His painting is composed of successive layers, which remain palpable, tense beneath each covering coat; thus it has life.
Stability is never to be taken for granted. A tumble is possible, the boat may overturn and the mound collapse; yet everything holds together in a strange conglomerate of matter, which appears to defy the laws of gravity. For example there is a flowerpot, which appears isolated and stands out from its background. Over time Ranou’s painting has developed, it has gained in luminosity and verticality – rock has become erect, rising up like a totem. The background is lighter. Brighter colours and creamy whites have replaced the early earthy and coppery tones. Ranou uses a delicate film as fragile as the skin of milk; he likes transformation. There is sculpture in his painting, in the way he carves, cuts, models, contracts. There is also chemistry and geology, a huge work of solidification, fusion, patina, freezing and thawing.
Ranou involves the very essence of painting in its most material nature (substance, lines, pigments…). The mineral element dominates but there are also organic and vegetal substances. Stone seems to swell, to turn green, to fray, to grow thorns or hairs. It also contains a shining heart and then, one day, over a blue stream, it takes off like a sheet of newspaper or a tissue paper lantern.
Jacques Morice (Journalist for Télérama magazine)
Ranou Kadi showed me his paintings that had been chosen for the Bernanos Gallery rue du Senegal in Belleville. He had selected around twenty pictures that were the result of his last years of research.
His speech is modest but his work takes the risk of art. He develops his motive very simply: the erasure of the figure, more precisely that of the face. The figure is sometimes retracted and appears to float in the opaque space of the background; at other times it is compartmentalized and expanded, intensifying the very structure of the frame; and at other times it fades away into the density of the background.
The particularity of Ranou Kadi’s work is that the appearance/disappearance trick is a result of the painting rather than a mere effect. To technical virtuosity he prefers a slow work of impregnation, overlaying, brushing, rubbing, scraping, close to the colour or the patina. The masks – faces included in the pictorial background -gain density and the picture becomes transparent.
Ranou Kadi’s work takes its full meaning with his large paintings, maybe because the face is then oversized. There is a picture in particular where a slightly oblique oblong mass floats in the cloudy density of a web of glaze. Darker than the background, it opens up into a wide mouth. Two accents appear: the orbits. Then it disintegrates into blue-shaded transparency. Previously compact, the figure unravels and finally falls apart in the thickness of the background. The image of the sedimented face is beginning to erode. It is the strategy of “capsizing” that allows Ranou Kadi to continue painting despite all.
Jean Da Silva, Head of Plastic Arts Department – University Paris 1 – St Charles – Sorbonne