12 / 03 / 2015


By daniel /


When I asked him what his favorite song was, he smiled, and answered “I’m Pretentious” that is my song. I had never been more surprised by such an answer, coming from a man who was everything but pretentious.

I walked in to the Modern Gallery thinking it was photography. He proved me wrong. ‘The Beauty of Peace’ solo exhibition, curated by Eliseo Barbara is a homage to the Buddhist practice in Asia, underlining it’s spirituality and energy. Daniel Cordonnier, almost sixty years old, has spent the past ten years traveling, and encountering, if not embracing this religion he has become passionate about. A man who explored with a Canon camera and taught himself to become a painto-grapher.

The Modern Gallery, located at O.P Garden is a must-see space I hadn’t heard of before the announcement of this exhibition that has caught the eye of all sorts of media these past few weeks. Why? Unlike a lot of galleries we walk into, this one has good taste and the owner is lucky enough to meet these kind of people. If you get the chance to run into Daniel Cordonnier (he is a friendly man who lives and works in Bangkok), I must warn you. Don’t you dare call him a photographer, this is the answer I received when asking him why he enjoyed taking photos :

“I don’t like taking photos. They’re not photos. I’m a painto-grapher.”
The painto-grapher, or pioneer of painto-graphy refuses to ever use Photoshop if it is not for the sole purpose of contrasting images. The words flash and tripod are not in his dictionary. I had to ask him to repeat that to fully process (and believe!) it. Then how do you do it, Mr Cordonnier? A technique of multiple exposure he named “shooting star” paired with a power of self-control and calmness -taken from meditation- when pressing the shutter. Not only, though. The artist never captures the images separately. Unlike photographers, he doesn’t give importance to light, either. The only similitude between his work and photography is the framing of the image. A photographer will put a great part of his effort into standing still so the picture won’t be blurred. Mr Cordonnier intentionally moves with the camera in his hand, like a spiritual dance. The aleatory outcome of this process is the result of an enchanting coincidence paired with experience and understanding: what some call expert knowledge. The elements and scenery combined when moving together create a new meaning, that belong to him only.

Daniel Cordonnier is a self made man , self made artist. He never documented himself on photography as learning and discovering with an innocent eye is part of his strong principles when it comes to creativity. A free soul who, leaving school at the age of sixteen, learned metal work by himself and the manufacturing of automobiles and aeronautics. Living in Paris for most of his life, he got disinterested of the air conditioning company he founded and made the wise decision to escape. For the past ten years, Daniel Cordonnier has nourished a passion for photography. The first camera he owned, at the age of eighteen was a Praktica. Art is a part of him, as he is constantly searching to sublime the hideous. As a curious human being prepared to discover the world, he has seen many things he didn’t want to. A discovery that brought him to pictorialism : transporting the ordinary, this man will give you a different view on reality while staying loyal to it. He knows where to place the mystery and open the door of the imaginary, giving the power of interpretation. He understands and translates the immateriality and mobility of atoms, too. Only if you pay strong attention will you see it in his painto-graphs.

Now what happens when you become a turtle-man and decide to move around with nothing but twenty kilos on your back? This man has been everywhere, from India to Laos, Madagascar to Reunion, Nepal, Cambodia…to name a few. Another surprising fact, he hasn’t turned on a television for ten years. When I asked him about his favorite book, Usage du Monde (The Way of the World) by Nicolas Bouvier I understood. Travel is an invitation to open yourself to the world.
The travel and discovery of new cultures was not only fulfilling for Mr Cordonnier’s artistic practice but also therapeutic. The artist cultivates the capacity to dream the same way a child dreams. The memory he had long lost suddenly came back to him and sustained his creativity as he began to write. He is also a poet, and through his two hundred and fifty texts, he accepted sensitivity as being something beautiful. Something to interpret into art, for himself, and the viewers.
Influenced by impressionism (visually) and its’ important figures like Cézanne, Monet and Sisley, he told me about a country house he remembered when he was young, surrounded by a garden filled with colorful flowers. His artistic practice is not impressionist though, it is his own, though if someone had to give a name to it, it might be surrealism.

Daniel Cordonnier is anything but superficial as well. His sensitivity is explicitly put into his work as he underlines how important it is for us as individuals to accept who we are. “You can be fond of flowers and still be masculine, he says as the gallery owner gives him a flower to put in his suit pocket for the opening night of the exhibition, flowers are a symbol of grace and peace. A woman, is peace.”
The period he calls “Peace Time”, 1968 or when it was still socially acceptable to wear flowered shirts and pants, he did it. Flowers and lights of cities are an important element in his art. He is not yet ready to capture humans and their facial expressions as he reminds me they shouldn’t be given etiquettes. The mystery should be preserved in order to see further.

Buddhism has become a revelation for him, and through the practice of meditation, yoga and listening of prayers, he has learned to listen to himself. Analysing the paradox between what he shows and who he is, has become a crucial part of his research. Why are your painto-graphs so colorful, Mr Cordonnier? “I didn’t choose color, color chose me. For it’s happiness and celebration”.

Some more inspirational words from Mr Cordonnier, who believes that the term “artist” builds a wall between people. It gives young creatives and curious minds a sentiment of inaccessibility.

“The finality of what I want to experience is to convey a message to the middle class: we can all be artists, we just have to believe.”