About Lord Anthony Cahn

Lord-Anthony-Cahn_portrait2014

INSIDE THE MEMORY OF WALLS: LORD ANTHONY CAHN

 

I believe that the entrance halls of buildings still retain the echo of the footsteps of those who used to cross them and who have since vanished.Patrick Modiano - Rue des boutiques obscures

 

At what moment does an artist decide to explore a subject, make it his private and then his public quest, and become so consumed by it that he devotes all his energy, thinking and, ultimately, his entire life to it? How is it that one day, an object, word or image can prove so interesting to some-one that it becomes his most existential question?

When did Lord Anthony Cahn’s obsession with walls begin? Born in Paris and brought up in the Marais district, he came into contact with the world of work at a very young age. On completing his studies in the history of art and sculpture, he decided to devote himself fully to his artistic career, and to his exploration of walls. And so detailed was his research that he would reconstruct them time and time again in his studio, first as scale models and then in various sizes, right down to the tiniest of versions.

Visitors who step inside the brightly lit environment of this graffiti artist turned visual artist’s studio find themselves surrounded not only by the four walls which showcase the artist’s creative talent but also by dozens of small sculptures of walls, sitting serenely atop their plinths. Their eyes are transfixed by the disturbing similarity between these walls and those seen around the city, the same city which bustles with life down below the tower. Is he a street artist? An urban artist? Yes, in his own unique way. Because Lord Anthony Cahn examines walls in all their aspects, going as far as recreating them, fashioning their bricks and trying to capture their organic character. Before he starts tagging them and sticking small posters on their sides, he examines the very matter from which they are made: be they ancient or rustic, the artist makes the bricks himself using organic materials.

These nomadic walls, sculpted, painted, and covered with pieces of paper and tags, seem to have been ripped out of the city and time, and then shrunk to amazingly small scales. They also reflect the artist’s travels to the four corners of the earth and the images which are still etched in his brain. And there are other quite astonishing walls which transform the viewer into a Gulliver, at one mo-ment towering over the Lilliputian sculptures, and at another, dwarfed, Brobdingnag-style, by apartment interior walls which will soon be exhibited in lakes in Mexico…

Each of his sculptures is coherent in time and space. The district which provided the inspiration for a particular wall gives the work its language, its colour and its time. Since we cannot commandeer the city, the artist does so: all wall sculptures are given a street name and a title deed is issued for each. He also says that “they crystallise a place and a time and encapsulate a moment of remem-brance“.

But Lord Anthony Cahn does not stop there. He is interested in what goes on behind them, and this is particularly the case in his works beneath illuminated cases. Standing in front of these torn strips of translucent paper, made from old advertising posters, shop signs or political leaflets, the visitor can see through the wall as though his gaze were trapped from the inside. These collages present the passage of time. The layers of paper are penetrated by a kind of urban erosion in which organic matter enshrouds all signs of urbanisation, consistent with the popular tradition of the works of Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé.

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Walls present something of a contradiction, and Lord Anthony Cahn explores all the mysteries they hold. On the one hand, walls constitute a frontier, they block our path and represent an obstacle we have to overcome. On the other, they preserve secrecy and privacy, the basic requirements for pro-tecting freedom and uniqueness. The more walls hide, the more they make us want to see, thus un-dermining the very thing they set out to preserve. The concept of the wall, by its very essence, even precludes the notion of protection. They also represent ancient memories and horizons: from the mother’s womb to the grave, walls are an external extension of the body.

These questions arise naturally when viewing the works of Lord Anthony Cahn, whose obsession we are gradually coming to understand. And then, back in the city, the walls we walk along sudden-ly seem to be inhabited by their own unique souls.

Marie-Eve Lacasse

(Translation by Hélène Planquelle)

 

VERSION FRANCAISE


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