Nicolas Bourriaud

When Cézanne extended the arm of the au gilet rouge» he was bending reality to his own convenience in order to accommodate it to the laws of the painting. we would rather have the tendency to modify the form of the art work so that it corresponds to reality... that is why the problematic of contemporary painting appears to be much more complex than the amateurs of revivals, the aficionados of the «retour l'ordre» (what order?) would like it to be...

We must only consider, among the ruins of the modern styles, their efforts towards the world; we must define the modes of figuration by that through which the attempt at the level of the visible: What Roberto Cabot works on to describe is not as simple as it seems.

It is not about affirming painting as a historical revenge, as it was for the “transavantgarde”; neither is it about revindicating the painting as object, as an un overtakable paradigm, nor it is about asserting painterly know— how as the touchstone of creation: If this was his purpose, our reaction would be, at best, a yawn, at worst, a grimace of disgust. Nevertheless, painting and drawing presently seem more exciting to me than they ever have been since the 1960's. And the sudden excellence comes as well from the artists themselves as from the context, which brings a strenght and a basis that is otherwise inexplicable. When everything accelerates. when the machinery of our civilization seems filled with consternation, the artist is confronted with two possibilities; either to accelerate with the whole, or to slow down extremely and oppose the resistance of the eye (very slow, without prothesis) and of the body (very heavy, if no machine arrives to unburden it from gravity). This seems to be the function of these paintings: to slow the movement, to decelerate, to put the weight of our organs on the levers of sensibility.. Would it nowadays be of any interest to paint like Jackson Pollock? There are machines to do that, Cabot strives to «refigurate» that which has not been seen enough. To see not to look: so keep he explaining to us. To catch that what is about to disappear: has pictorial figuration ever tried anything else?

«We must hurry up if we still want to see something, everything is disappearing», Cezanne, alarmed, already has said. This worry about the «no longer» present in Cabot's general project and, with more acuteness, in a series of self-portraits from 1988, where he paints himself several times in different poses, with different twists of the face, as if he were methodically establishing the invetory of all the caricatures that constitute the limits of the self. You will object: To claim that painting belongs to the desire of perpetuating the fleeting, what a cliché! But the painting of Roberto Cabot has precisely the aim of inhabiting banality, to dust its curtains and to open its windows. Instead of magnifying the ordinary, as it is since pop art, these landscapes and still-lives go along with it, in order to make it speak... Cabot paints details that are visible with a naked eye, landscapes without originality, occasional nudes or even cigarette lighters, potatoes or flowers stuck into vases without specific qualities. The «glasses» series nevertheless seems to mark a supplementary phase, in the sense that it deals with a more theoretical problem: in fact, the drinking glasses painted by Cabot are empty, pure translucidities, yet still possessing the capacity of projecting shadow. Convention associates a glass with its content, just as it associates painting with a certain «point of view».

Painting, in the classical culture, oscillates between two metaphors with two diverse visions of its role: the open window to the world (the «Vedute»), or the mirror. It must be said that these two images correspond to the southern and the northern cultures: the window is a present in the pictorial systems of the Italian Renaissance as is the mirror in northern space (as, for instance, the «Couple Arnolfini» by Van Eyck). Roberto Cabot assumes those two archetypes, setting them in play in his «glasses» series, half window, half mirror, middle point between reflection and transparency, the opacity of things and the fluidity of the painting gesture. His painting discloses itself as a cheating two-way mirror.

One obtains the impression that only the shadows come out untouched in this theater of illusions: the shadow of the pictorial subject, more and more impossible to fix upon.