Review, ‘The Crossing’ by Victor Cord’homme

Caravansérail, Brick Lane 7th September – 3rd October 2017

When I arrive at Caravansérail, I find that my favourite bookstore in all of London has undergone something of a transformation. Novels and magazines have made way for acrylic drawings depicting manmade structures of the seaside; lighthouse, water-tower, boat. A skeletal machine is suspended in mid-air, occupying the centre of the room, belonging to neither sea nor land. At the heart of its construction sits an electric fan which provides an underlying hum, recalling one to languorous holidays in distant cities of eternal summer, of afternoons spent by the beach in the day and open windows at night. On top of this pleasant drone, French and English syllables rise and fall around the room, almost indistinguishable from each other, creating a new language of the moment. Softly, the plastic cup in my hand gives way to the slightest pressure, as though eager to become something else. The window multiplies its reflection onto the empty streets outside, populating the external darkness with animated figures immersed in a bubble of light. I have entered a cosmic interior.

 At once familiar and strange, the works of Victor Cord’homme’s exhibition La Traversée crosses the boundaries between gallery and storefront, imagination and reality, infusing an essence of the fantastic into objects of the everyday. Unlike conventional galleries, where artworks are cordoned off in white string or held captive behind glass boxes, Cord’homme’s installation encourages not only contemplation but also interaction in physical proximity. Crafted steel in the shape of a cloud bounces merrily atop my head and a metal rod extends its limbs beyond the shelf upon which it sits, commanding the attention of the passers-by. There is a slight potential danger in being caught on unawares, but this playful surprise of the touch appears to be only another component to Cord’homme’s immersive approach. Different materials mingle here without discrimination, brightly patterned strips of paper adorning contraptions of wood and steel. For this is a place where dimensions collide, where two-dimensional representations of the sea on canvas are solidified in waves of steel and the idea of libraries depicted on paper nestle within the books themselves.

Traversing around these objects of the exhibition, I become more aware of my own metamorphosis. From spectator to navigator, a switching from the passive to the active, I am struck by the bluntness of the titles which give everything and nothing away. ‘Cloud’, ‘Library’, ‘The Sea and its Seagulls’ are mere nouns, factual statements which only announce what had been the original stimulus for creation of his works. ‘Maritime traffic’ is a phrase that suggests congestion and blockage, but Cord’homme’s painting is fluid and serene, barely traceable ships congregating around abstract streams of orange, red and blue, finding stillness in perpetual movement. Water-towers appear more sky-bound than earthly, with one taking on the curves of a hot-air balloon and another’s pointed roof and yellow support suggestive of a rocket awaiting ignition. ‘Often the end is different to what I had imagined at the beginning,’ Cord’homme nods towards his ‘Submarine’, an unembellished mechanism made of bronze, suspended in the air like the brush-strokes of a Miró. ‘But I enjoy that process, of transformation, when it starts to become something else.’ From inspiration to creation, the universe of La Traversée is governed only by the possibility of what could be rather than what is, of empty chairs in an expectant arena, anticipating the ghosts of those yet to come.

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