By means of a realistic figurative painting of classical tradition, Dorian Cohen focuses on the creation of urban imagery among landscapes, mirages and naturalistic genre scenes. Organized in a series of images, his work builds a genealogy of urban narratives by studying the pictorial and narrative mechanics at work between each of these series.
For his second solo exhibition at the gallery “Dans l’Intérieur des silences”, the artist presents a new suite of paintings, part of his Cycle des Histoires Naturelles.
“The light radiates, soft, delicately infused, gradually bringing the shades of colors to their maturity. From the space of the canvas thus enshrouded emanates an overpowering tenderness. Water-green, light blue or woody yellow. In the interior scenes, the brightness comes from a glass window, a high-placed glass roof or from an artificial neon light, making the earthenware of a kitchen or the waxed wood of a table sparkle. In the exterior ones, it is the trees that open the field to the sun, as per their wish.
Dorian Cohen paints everyday life scenes of seemingly happy banality. Yet, noticeably, between the more or less vigorous folds of the drapes, the more or less vivid drama of a family unspoken truths is felt, in the scarlet flush on cheeks after a game of football with friends, the gratitude of a generation’s memories can be read. Slowly, with the meticulous attention of solitary studio work, the artist pursues the ambition of a narrative picture whose core is not only the representation of the present moment, in the style of a photographic cliché, but that of the representation of passing time, advancing age, childhood flying by, the gravity of adulthood that constrains. Slowly, indeed, for it is perceptible that Dorian Cohen’s paintings are like gems that the eye polishes. Through the gaze, the shadows thicken and the beams of light brighten. In the same subtle way that tree leaves’ contours are defined after a rainstorm. He’s now a painter of the intimate and domestic space as much as he’s a landscape painter.
It is indeed this rise in tonalities of the scenery that reveals the psychological depth of his subjects: a couple at daybreak or at bedtime, of whom we do not know whether they have just quarreled or whether they are resigned to the hum of life, but whose immense and magnificent carmine red drape of the bed cover perhaps says everything about their conjugal passion; a little boy fascinated by a glowing lantern or day-dreaming in front of a window with translucent opacity; an old woman in her kitchen in a subdued darkness betraying the inevitable loneliness of old age; a young girl sitting in a small neighborhood restaurant with Japanese decor that seems to be the sign of a family line that she must pursue. Scenes lived or observed during urban wanderings.
Dorian Cohen speaks of his “natural stories” in which he seeks an “inner naturalism”, those innocuous and repeated moments that tirelessly punctuate our lives, sources of ephemeral joy and tenacious melancholy. His fluid and velvety touch, never photorealistic but always perfectly neat, keeps in it the gesture of the painter, which makes it exciting. The artist never reproduces images using an overhead projector but draws everything by hand and you can feel that. Fascinated by Vallotton, Millet, Toulouse-Lautrec, but also by the lesser known Emile Friand and Rémy Cogghe, his descriptive painting, and especially his reflective figuration, have the same charm as these painters. In fact, each element of the decor, for which the eyes delight in their finesse, respond to each other and make sense.
Before becoming a painter, Dorian Cohen was an urban planner and his first paintings were ultra-realistic urban views without human characters, but already inhabited by insolently green vegetation. Thus, he always starts from a precise composition where the scenery, the landscape, envelops the characters, as the environment in which we live determines our destiny. Zola, Maupassant, are not far away, intellectual guides of a pictorial neo-naturalism aimed at scrutinizing the negative aspects of our lives. What we do not look at, what we do not talk about, but which shapes us and builds our destiny in spite of ourselves. And it is in everyday life that this social determinism is most strongly perceived. Cooks at work in the back of a restaurant, a secret conversation between two friends, a young father’s feelings towards his little boy… Curved backs, frozen looks, gestures in the waiting, always silent poses, introspections: everything indicates a certain weight of existence while on the wall, hung as clues for the wise eye, a poster of an exhibition of Toulouse-Lautrec or Félix Vallotton resonates as a painter’s nod to his elders but also as a claim to a certain kind of painting that is not dead.
Today, figuration returns in grace, carried by a young generation of artists who once again devote themselves to the genre scene. Those delivered to us by Dorian Cohen have the merit of arousing the emotion of the story, even of the novel, supported by a magnificent treatment of light, charged in colors, which are nothing other than feelings. Proving this point, it is a cycle that the artist seeks to tackle, and not a simple series, wishing for his paintings to evolve with his characters in the manner of an intimate chronicle of our time, over the long run. Dorian Cohen’s pictorial novel has just begun.”
Julie Chaizemartin – Journalist and art critic
Dorian Cohen is a young French painter born in 1987. He lives and works in Paris. He has a degree in urban design and engineering and is self-taught as a painter. His paintings were revealed to the art world in 2017 during the 62nd Montrouge Salon. In 2018, he won the Colas Foundation Award and in 2019 he was nominated for the 10th edition of the Sciences PO Contemporary Art Award.