Browsing through the works of Cédric Rivrain—the cried tears (Crying Machines), the dressed wounds (Plasters and Masks), the denuded friends—is to experience a sensual dialog between the artist and his subject, between the images themselves, the experience of an indescribable grace, of an intimacy that always surfaces, always modestly. The gaze emerges from the paintings, from the drawings, invariably, vaporous and yet so penetrating. Hazy, persistent. “The eyes seek, seek. They plunge their pale ray into the night, obstinately, fiercely. They will see, they know it. They will look so long, that the sight will appear. The glance will manage to find this darkness,” writes Le Clézio in Mydriase. This night is perhaps the absolute mystery of the subject, this representable but inaccessible being. This new night into which Cédric plunges obstinately is Lotta Volkova’s look, her beauty composed of so much contrast that she seems describable only by a series of trite but reassuring formulas—“fire beneath the ice,” “that obscure clarity.” Lotta who, from one portrait to the next—by a pose, by such a secret smile—reveals herself and, in the same movement, shies away.
The drawings are strewn on the white table of Cédric’s studio. A face is running on the colored sheets, dusty pink, almond green, Nattier blue—Lotta. Abruptly present, revealed in her plurality. All her facets are there: the post-punk doll, the icy sphinx, the explosive diva, the Russian elf, sometimes Marilyn and sometimes Marlene, sweet or fierce, animal and fairy. Cédric understands, considers, isolates, decenters, and exhausts her to finally make her appear, deeply, essentially. Like this oyster Cédric draws without a pearl, Lotta appears unadorned. The silhouette—observed mainly in the bustle of fashion shows or filtered through social networks, furiously contemporary—once inscribed in the materiality of paper, whether granular or smooth, virgin or damaged, seems to reinvent itself, naked and new. This is, no doubt, the necessity of the figurative portrait, certainly its singularity: to reveal its subject in the harmony of a look and a gesture, to extract it from the noise of the world.
We are observing a caressing and perpetual evolution that can probably exist only in drawing. A photograph or a film rips an image from time, but the draftsman develops an image in time. The time of the drawing is not that of the moment, nor of the sequence; it is the drawn out time of the repeated gesture, the deliberate effacement, the return to the same. It’s a prolonged search. The sketches of Lotta’s portraits—the facial research—remain taped to the wall of Cédric’s studio, facing his work table, tracing an archipelago of variegated forms on the white and plaster immensity. He regards them often. Sometimes he speaks a little, never a lot. He ponders. Sometimes he comes forward, weary of his retreat, seizes one of the studies, lays it carelessly on his table, and bends over it. He concentrates on it absolutely, perfectly, absorbed by the tracing of the hollow of a cheek, the roundness of a shoulder, until the portrait once again find its place on the wall. Essentially, a drawing is always in progress, always likely to be gently modified, reworked, partially erased. This is particularly vertiginous in Cédric’s work, over which hovers a feeling of incompleteness. Now that the series of drawings is ready to be published, this impression persists. Coloring does not cover the extent of clothes. The motifs on a print are interrupted three quarters of the way down. The body itself seems to merge with the colored background of the paper. This is not imprecision. These are the marks of a keen awareness of the impermanence of beings. What we see, in the delicacy of this absence, is the vertigo of time passing or that which might pass. This idea that a drawing is still being made, is never closed on itself but always overflowing, exceeded by time, can be observed even in the details that Cédric deliberately inscribes in his works: the gummed traces from the inclination of a leg or an arm, the shadows of the movements of creations, the small accidents. Even the movements of the model, alive, seeking his pose, are superimposed to compose a being in time.
A successful, exact, portrait results from an interpretation. Cédric, drawing Lotta, interprets her. He does not make her play a role, he does not flaunt her. He’s looking for her. Emotion is born precisely in the sincerity that links the gaze to the gesture, which constantly evokes Lotta without ever freezing her, which seizes the elusive by assuming it as such. Lotta Volkova, who breathes the air of her time better than most, crystallizes an effect of the present. Yet here—in the intimacy of the paper, the line of the pencil—this exchange of solitary glances seems eternal to us. Cédric observed her, found her in this beautiful and thorny flower, pictured her in the two-headed bear enthroned in her place, imagined her as a Degas dancer, as a false-fantasy maid, as a Hollywood star languishing in crumpled sheets. Lotta is perhaps all of this at once, an impish kid, a fashion creature, an old movie dream. A vacillating flame in the blue lagoon eye of an artist who seeks her to finally find her, obstinately, lovingly.