ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWS
Douglas Enyon - 2015 - The Mind as a Fruit Machine [EN, essay],
The Mind as a Fruit Machine
A few words on meeting Douglas Eynon
I meet Eynon (°1989) in his studio. One big wall is covered with a series of new paintings, painted on dark blue cloth. I have the impression that the artist is primarily preoccupied with images, not with texture. Apart from the trivial support, which indicates that the paintings don’t want to look like traditional ones, they mainly consist of straightforward drawings with paint. In spite of their attempts to go to the essential (on the level of imagery), most of them look overwrought. We feel the artist is still searching. We also feel he’s not principally a painter, but someone who tries to put things in a certain order and to do that, uses paint. This corresponds with the various beautiful sculptures that are scattered about his studio, almost invisibly: a concrete model of a staircase, that proves to be eerily or funnily crooked when seen from up close, a plant in a pot, partly disappearing into a vertical concrete slab. Then the artist shows me his drawings. Clearly, the paintings I just saw stem from these drawings, that function as a virtual space in which a number of images are repetitively combined to form new worlds. One drawing, for instance, shows a dripping faucet attached to a rock, creating a shadow or flake in the shape of a human figure. Each drawing presents itself as a dreamlike space that reminds us of paintings by certain surrealists. Not as attempts to evoke a mystery or a surreal world, but as a manner of creating an unexpected poetic order into a dispersed set of images that haunt or tempt the artist. Not surprisingly, Eynon mentions Kafka. Not for superficial reasons, but for the unique way this writer shuffles with space. In Kafka’s novels heroes sometimes need hours to get somewhere, whereas the next day those same places appear to be adjacent. In Kafka’s novels, architecture obeys the abrupt logic of dreams. Similarly, Eynon juggles with images such as dripping light bulbs, raining tables or rippled black ponds. He puts them together and separates them, as if he were trying to find out why they fascinate him. Ideally, we understand, some of these images will be translated into large installations. In the meantime, Eynon has started to enlarge them to the size of the paintings, just to see what would happen. He tells me he doesn’t like talking about his work, but I like to listen to him. The following words might be attributed to him, but I cannot guarantee he really pronounced them.
“Personal narrative becomes increasingly important for me, but I don’t know why… I think I must be obsessed with water. Once I started a collection of paintings with water. A lot of them were really bad. One day I showed a lot of them in one row, putting the horizons on the same level. Together they created this artificial sea. You couldn’t see any land. It was a one-off. Normally I don’t work with found objects, but if a thing takes me to a certain medium, I have to accept this. Of course, you cannot be a fucking great painter and a fucking great sculptor at the same time. That’s another thing we have to accept. (Laughs.) One day I took this dentist material to the Rodin Museum and I made moulds of certain hands. The moulds were turned into plaster casts. (He shows me one of these casts. A beautiful sculpture. He also shows me photographs of Rodin’s sculptures with buckets covering hands.) I didn’t want to harm his sculptures. I only made moulds from the bronzes. I was not trying to reproduce, I was trying to make new objects. My practice consists of developing materials and stuff. It really bounces around. Mmm. I never talked so much about myself, except in French classes… I would like to place big wedges under some sculptures on Easter Island. In my drawings and paintings this is possible. (He shows me an aquarium filled with water. On the bottom of the aquarium, protected from the water by a glass recipient, a little plant in a pot dries out.) I’m obsessed with control. I’ve always liked the idea of home improvement. Not to create a place to live in, but to create absurd objects… For a while, my work was like people who create an arrangement in their front garden, with a plant, a little pond or any other object. Today sculptures are more meaningful to me and I learnt to trust my drawings more. Now I’m no longer trying to create a perfect home, but a perfect installation: an environment that corresponds to the atmosphere of my drawings. All the stuff of my drawings is happening in the same place. I would like to be able to construct this place and make a film inside of it. I would live in it and continuously add new sculptures. I’m very much attached to this place, where all this stuff goes on. I don’t feel like explaining this to anyone. I love rain. I never get bored of it. It’s difficult to paint rain. I think I succeeded in this painting, but then I ruined it by adding the landscape. Sometimes your mind is like a stingy dirty corridor with fags everywhere, sometimes it’s nicely lit. Kafka’s world is frightening, but it’s also fascinating. In Orson Welles’ film ‘The Trial’ there’s this great scene where K. leaves the house to go to work. These photographs remind me of this scene. (He shows me photographs of a building that looks like a church and of a staircase hewn out of rock. Juxtaposed, they create an incongruent ensemble. On another photograph the interior of what seems to be a church looks like a cemetery… While looking at these photographs, I notice that the image on the desktop shows a painting of Philip Guston, representing a vomiting mouth.) Kafka gives you so much pleasure… I don’t know if I’d cope if I were stuck, but I’d love to be trapped and try to work it out… One type of control against the other… I like this bit in Beckett’s novel ‘Molloy’, where a guy keeps sixteen stones in groups of four in four pockets. When he sucks on a stone he replaces it by a stone from another pocket, which in it’s turn is replaced by a stone from another pocket, which in it’s turn is replaced by a fourth stone, which is replaced by the stone that comes out of his mouth. However, following this system, he can never be sure he’s not always sucking on the same four stones. And even if he would have sixteen pockets, he wouldn’t be satisfied because… And so on… I’m trying to create a sculpture with melting metal that drips like rain. I don’t want to justify my work. Secrecy is very important. I admire the way Bob Dylan changes accents, sings in different voices. Nobody can pin him down… Nothing against hopping around. We should be allowed to surprise people. I’d like to come out like Urs Fischer. I like this kind of appearing. He offers open access to anybody on his website, but at the same time he’s protecting his secrecy. By giving everybody everything, he makes it clear that we will never know where he will go. I love his clay cats on San Marco, washed away by the rain… A friend of mine once told me that while waiting for a train at some station, he suddenly stepped into an adjacent room full of fruit machines. The room was empty, except for an Asian guy, who was sitting on a chair. Slowly he rose and went from machine to machine, just pulling the arms. It appeared he had already put money into each machine…”
Montagne de Miel, 27 August 2015