Painter Philippe Cognée, one of the most important French artists of his generation, is exhibiting his work for the first time in Brussels, at Galerie Daniel Templon. The exhibition features a previously unseen series of urban landscapes under surveillance.

Philippe Cognée has spent the last twenty years exploring the possibilities of “thinning away the image”. He has developed a wholly original practice that starts with a photographed image – digital, video or taken with a camcorder or telephone – which he then uses to create canvases that verge on the abstract. They are based on paint mixed with wax that is heated and crushed, producing a blurred yet shimmering effect. Philippe Cognée’s artistic journey has led him to encounter a reality that is both stark and commonplace, a reality made up of motorways, suburbs, industrial abattoirs, supermarket shelves and recycling plants. He draws on this encounter to paint a remarkable portrait of a reality described by Guy Tosatto as “signposted and indefinable”.

Philippe Cognée questions the role of painting in a society where the internet and new digital technologies have ushered in the era of the image, both omnipresent and diminished. In response to the sweeping but vague views of the world offered by systems such as Google, satellite surveillance and the proliferation of images taken by mobile devices, Philippe Cognée explores the power of painting to transcend the ordinariness of daily life.

Born in 1957, Philippe Cognée lives and works in Nantes. A graduate of the Nantes Ecole des Beaux Arts, he was a Villa Médicis prize-winner in 1990 and nominee for the 2004 Marcel Duchamp Prize. He has been teaching at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris since 2005.

His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Angers Musée des Beaux Arts in 2005, MAMCO (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), Geneva, in 2006 and the Haute-Normandie regional contemporary art collection in 2007. He took part in the Le réel est inadmissible exhibition at the Hangar à Bananes art centre in Nantes in 2011, the year in which he also unveiled Echo, a major public commission for the Château de Versailles. The Musée de Grenoble held a major retrospective of his work in 2013. That same year, he also featured in the Vues d’en haut exhibition at the Centre Pompidou Metz. In 2014, he exhibited his work at Château de Chambord, in the Loire Valley.

His works feature in many famous collections, including at the Musée National d’Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou and Fondation Cartier in Paris, and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.