ASHES resulted from a cathartic happenstance. As a young boy, I attended the centuries-old choir school of the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, where I became immersed in the practice of sacred chant. There, I developed an interest for the architecture of the iconic cathedral. I learned to find my way to the restricted and remote spaces of the edifice, from the vast underground crypts to the upper galleries, and above the great vault to the “forest” – the invaluable 800 years old oak roof structure that was destroyed in the tragic fire in 2019. Those were some of my most memorable years growing up.

Recently, while burning years of accumulated papers, I came across various books, as well as an old missal of Gregorian chants from that period of my life. I felt driven to burn its pages, and to use their volatile textures as the primary medium for collage on new paintings. This was a form of transmutation of the chants as a mental catalyst for internalizing the cathedral’s tragedy, and furthermore, a way to conceptualize the transitory essence of life, ideas, and cultural values. This work eventually extended to the use of old metaphysical books, poems, sheet music, star maps, and personal records kept along the years.

The process begins with the meticulous burning of pages, one by one introduced to fire. With each page, words vanish and new forms emerge, often resembling fields of lava. It has become a meditative ritual, as even a breath taken without awareness may send the newly transmuted material into consequential pulverization. Another interesting aspect is the nature of paper itself: some burn slowly and methodically, some tend to curl while others retain their flat shape, some become delicate laces, while others burn partially still conserving words.

ASHES is a continuation of previous bodies of work such as Kumulipo, where the canvas is painted in direct contact with the configurations of diverse exterior grounds and fluctuant atmospheric conditions. In both cases, the work commits to the dynamics of mutable and uncontrollable natural forces that will determine their outcome.