« When the cat’s away… » by Jerome Romain




Amongst the artworks of one particular artist, some truly stand out from all others. Whether it be because of the subject matter, the technic, the story it tells, its « culmination », or better yet, the artist’s emotional attachment to the artworks, which usually generates key, major artworks in his production as a whole. « When the cat’s away… » is one of Jerome Romain’s remarkable artworks we admire.

Nevertheless, we recognize his distinctive « signature », which characterizes him :


  • his technic and style with hyper-realism accuracy, often mistaken for photography, which complements « classic » painting, constituting a coherent whole. Here, the shoes illustrate this, as does the rest of the character and his clothes, creating realism in an environment, and the paint finish creating the emotion.
  • his handling of shadows and highlights in addition to the color palette which are his own, all the while reminding us of Edward Hopper and American modern painting.
  • a part of mystery and the interpretation of the scenes and the subjects that call upon us.
  •  lastly, these every day scenes, the skewed framing or off-beat perspective, guiding our eyes in the interpretation of his artworks.


Jerome regroups his artworks in three series which all have the same common denominator : to have us look at things differently, sometimes shattering our preconceptions by « freeze framing » them through photography and painting them after hand :

  • « still-life », from the crushed pack of cigarettes, the tube of toothpaste, drink cans, all these everyday products we consume which he replicates with surprising realism.
  • « people » : many daytime scenes represented as snapshots for us to stare at, emblematic of our lives and our daily routines, or depicted in a quirky, even disturbing way.
  • « night time » from which  « when the cat’s away… » was spawned, with such backgrounds rendering these strange, off-beat moments, sometimes sulfurous from too much partying, in which he represents, at night fall and in the heart of inhibition, real life figures whose behavior changes (is revealed ?). Series where, in some instances, make-up or a mask makes these figures anonymous (universal), all the while accentuating the unique and off-beat festive setting of such scenes, calling upon our judgement.


What distinguishes « When the cat’s away… » ?


First of all, aside from certain small canvasses (40 x 40cm), it is rare, even exceptional to see Jerome work big formats on square canvasses. Secondly, in his « night » series, the night scenes never have outdoor landscapes in the background, their backgrounds are always indoors. For these two reasons, this particular artwork represented a major technical challenge, unusual for the artist for whom, he confesses, the painting is resolutely a part of his soul-searching and technical evolution.

If many of Jerome Romain’s artworks are taken from snapshots or from the composition of several pictures, many paintings are inspired by real-life props chosen by Jerome, propping his camera on a tripod and leaving it in the same spot. This is one of those paintings, with the particularity of re-using the mouse mask, as seen in « Presentation » (here below). Even if the painting « When the cat’s away… » is inspired by a « snapshot » taken at a party, where one of the guests showed up with this mask, Jerome looked to enhance the background and to dig deeper by adding a children’s playground in the decor, and by carefully selecting the character’s outfit.

Jerome’s artwork stages and paints this « human comedy » to which he is witness, and portrays his own point of view, by illustrating his pictures in his paintings, while orienting our perspective.                             

Jerome says he « observes and loves to observe the behavior of people (indicative of our time and humankind), or the fleeting moment when light passes, or to focus simply on a daily life item. By doing so, he invites us to observe and see things differently ».


At this point, I can’t help but think of David LaChappelle’s photographs (whether you « agree » with this reference or not) and, particularly, his grand orchestrating of characters, for three reasons :

  • the color palette jointly used when it comes to dealing with « night time » and toying with the effects of light and shadow.
  • the characters frozen in time, whose movements we do not really see, but rather models who stopped moving the instance of the photograph, accentuating the effect of a « scenic image »
  • the will to challenge us about who we are (repressed, inhibited)


So, who is hiding behind this mask ? what is, who is this man on the playground ? What do you think ? What does he convey ? The excess of our consumerist society, an invitation to childlike levity in a world where appearances matter and in which we do not « dare », unless we wear a mask ? When the cat’s away…Are you cat or mouse ?

There is no precise message in Jerome’s artworks, just an invitation to reflect, an introspection…all in Art, technically impeccable, and aestheticism.


 David LaChapelle : La scène

Article published by LJ Art Traffik