Like a veritable alchemist, Romain Langlois, alters the substance of the materials he possesses and before our eyes he puts them back, not quite the same, not quite different. Changed into bronze, that piece of scrap wood takes on new life and has us questioning: Say, what exactly do you see?
Contenant, by Romain Langlois (bronze, 2014)
Romain Langlois has never had any artistic training: he has taught himself everything, patiently and methodically, and with as much rigour as the strictest of academic trainings. For 10 years, surrounded by books on anatomy, he has sculpted faces and human bodies -"with bulimia" says he, looking to master every technique and savoir-faire. He has the capacity to look at his work without indulgence and to start again until he has obtained a satisfactory result.
He does not attribute the incredible presence of his sculptures to his craftsmanship, but more to the materials they are made of, which pack them with their strength. On this note his works only aim is "to reveal the inner energy of the elements". White bronze, bismuth, crystal, silver, stone… The artist seems to possess an intimate knowledge of each substance. "To craft them gives one an enormous richness of understanding" says he, "One gets a sensitivity with the hand that slips the mind."
Question the waste
Recently, Romain Langlois has turned his interest towards industrial waste: "surroundings of human beings in its most immediate space." Indeed what nearer than the waste materials that we produce? These scraps that we no longer see, the artist wants to put back into our field of vision, lead us to question their beauty, their worth, the very nature of them. He has transformed himself into an alchemist and transmutes materials to give them new life. It is thus that an old beam is transformed into bronze and that a tree branch, covered with calcite, into an astonishing hybrid between vegetable and mineral.
Breath new life into the matter: a quest bordering on obsession, but which is always expressed with lightness. "Everything is alive, everything is moving, everything is changing. But life cannot always show off its best side. Sometimes you have to root it out. This is what I am trying to do with my sculptures, gently, discreetly: To search for the life and to expose it to those who are going to view them."
What am I looking at?
Avoid the pompous, impose nothing, simplify the idea to its maximum to capture the attention of the spectator with subtlety: thanks to gilding, an unusual form in the lines of what looks like a piece of wood… and once the attention is captured, get it to enter into the sculpture, its lines, its curves right up to drawing out the question: What am i looking at?
Romain Langlois' sculptures are like enigmas which have us mulling over what we thought we knew. They make us conscious of our environment, but in shifting our eyes, so that we are no longer focused on the centre of the picture.
Below: Vestige (2013). This piece was created at the Saint Nectaire petrifying fountains, in collaboration with Mr Eric Papon, by crystallization of calcium carbonate. This extremely rare process, related to fossilization, allows in a few months what nature would take several hundreds of thousands of years to produce.
Below, some photos taken during our visit to Romain Langlois' workshop.