"I have replaced my sketchbook with photographic documentation, my paint brushes with an air-brush, my etcher's needle with a laser beam..." Dominique MULHEM makes his position quite clear. He requires technology to endow his painting with an additional measure of soul that is the mark of his desire and ambition. The truth of his art lies in the dualism of his vision: he is in fact both "voyant"(seer) and "voyeur" (on-looker). When MULHEM looks at art, the art of others, the great art of the past and present, he at once experiences the keen sensation of participating in the great collective observation that an epoch makes of both its present condition and the evolution of its past. By resorting to the hologram, he restores to his painting the density and tangible depth of memory itself.
Last year, I saw an exhibition at the Galerie Eterso devoted to the New Realists and noticed this way of "looking from within" that is evoked by Mulhem's holopaintings. I decided to see the artist again and paid him a visit two months ago with Jacques Lambert. I found myself in a studio in the surburbs of Paris, densely packed with his work, an ad-hoc laser he had made himself, and his own presence.
This was then his intellectual laboratory, the factory where he spins his dreams, the studio in which the interior intensity of his observation is condensed into dual images. I was expecting to see only holopaintings but what I saw was paintings of extraordinary force. I was taken on a veritable museum tour, with perfect reproductions of work by Grand Masters in front of which pretty girls, agreeably and scantily dressed, strike flattering poses. Dream creatures in front of dream paintings ! In front of ! ... I should in fact say "in", but my eyes were unable to make the distinction, efface this simultaneous vision, separate the two different elements.
This is probably how Mulhem's mind works, and also how our visual memory works in art-galleries and museums. This discreet and secretive man knows what he wants. This genius of a handyman is brimming over with his subject, which is to make us see the paintings he loves and the painting he does himself from the same optical angle of simultaneity. If MULHEM ensnares us in his trap, it is to help us see more clearly within, and from within. This i.s what I would call a lesson in painting,
one which is given in all gentleness, without unwarranted pretension. A lesson from which I can benefit. If Mulhem's way of looking at art sometimes seems absent-minded, it is because he has gone beyond surface appearances, a little further on from them and a little closer to the truth of art.
Look twice at these works, they are well worth it. But take care ! This salubrity for the eye while looking from within may well take us far, into the depths of a sleepless dream.
Milan, May 18th 1993