Following the lines of the world - The art of Roger Vilder
...As I begin to write this text, I have before my eyes a great piece of tree-root found some months ago on a shore in Brittany, and which I’ve mounted on a stand. Rolled around by the waves, hollowed out by stones and salt, it’s a delight for the eyes and for the mind : an ocean sculpture, looking more interesting, saying more than The Victory of Samothrace.
I’d say something of the same for the stones gathered round the world I have laid out here in this atelier : a block of sandstone layered in grey and black from the Lofoten, a slab of grey and rosy clay from the Sierra de Grazalema in Spain, and that mauve stone from a river bed on Guadeloupe. It’s not only an aesthetic satisfaction linked to form and colour that these objects provide, it’s a sense of the forces at play in the universe. And with human beings that’s a deep need.
The human being has as much need of communication with the universe as of social communication. And there you have the ultimate motivation of the deepest art : the movements (of animals), the flight (of a band of migratory birds), the curve (of a wave), the gleam (of a stroke of lightning) — events that awaken the desire to do something similar, to be somehow worthy of the cosmos. Without such communication, without this contact, there will of course be productions called «art» and «culture».
But, descending from one artificial artefact to the other, this « art », this « culture », will end up in the most trivial fantasy or in a complacent milling about in ugliness and insignificance. All the great artists have always known this. That’s why Rimbaud says that if he has a taste for anything, it’s for «earth and stones». That’s why Saint-John Perse evokes the sea as «showing the way to the greatest text» and why Artaud calls for «an organic idea of culture». It’s in this field of premises, both radical and radiating, that I place the art of Roger Vilder. Vilder began (and a real artist never forgets his beginnings, he develops them) with a very strong sense of geometry: not only a sense of line and form, but «a measuring of the earth».
I’m thinking there of his 16 cubes in solid aluminium and his 4 white lines of neon. In such work, he is constructivist: the lines are regular — horizontal or vertical. Then the lines break, and become movement: the constructions are deconstructed (but without losing form, without turning into futility), the geometry becomes more complex. This is where constructivism converts to organicism: the regular or broken lines evoke now bee-swarms, a herd of moving animals, the flight of birds, meteorological whirlings of matter.
This is where the linear art of Roger Vilder discovers the open world, with its geo-graphies and its geo-logies. Walt Whitman said one day, way back in the nineteenth century, in the course of an excursion to Colorado, facing a chaotic pile of rocks, that he would give up anything commonly called «art» if only he could render the sensation with which those rocks filled his mind. In a similar way, Vilder has walked among the great rock-masses of Monument Valley and around Powell Lake.
They were a lesson to him, because he was able not just to admire them, but to read them, that is, to follow their lines. And then, in the bed of a river in Canada, he came across strange stones. Again, a shock of reality, and the desire to let it be seen and felt by others. He decides to give these stones art-status by reproducing them in bronze. This series of bronzen stones is a whole world, not only mineral, but organic and even totemic: both archaic and anarchic, representative and abstract.
In my reading of Vilder’s work, after the initial geometry, then the geography-geology, there is, as a third stage, geopoetics. There I’m thinking of those wavescapes, those sand-patterns, those crystal-clusters, stellar agglomerations and nebulas one finds in his glasswork, where force, form and light come together in an art that is complete, where the rhythms of the world, fracture zones included, are concentrated.
One particular glass-piece comes to mind: totality in movement, beautiful harmony, singularity and multiplicity combined, clarified cosmology — a masterpiece. Art, the mind in its furthest reaches, tends towards a cosmos. Not necessarily a paradise, but a cosmos. It’s this cosmological movement I see at work in the art of Roger Vilder.