Contemporary art publications — Visual artists in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Christelle FRANC

update June 03 2021

Christelle Franc, 2014

Translated by Simon Pleasance, 2015


My activity is developing in books and ensembles, counterparts of those books, which I compose. With paper as the main material, I am developing a certain language made of words and figures.
In books, I make different variations: I place photographs, photocopies of reproductions of artworks, extracts from literary texts, and lists of words drawn up on the basis of dictionary definitions. I then rework the lists on panels with precise configurations, interweaving and dovetailing many different figures, remakes of images glued in the books.
This is my complete aim: considering and assembling what is fragment and chance in a single thing. We do not get away from the sign, any more than we do from language. It is a matter of being situated in language, passing through it, and making an inventive and active use of it.
A time-frame peculiar to the book tallies with another living space, with the panels. In a continuous movement, I open up, in the surface of the paper, small windows which let words appear. These cut-outs, peppered with light in the layers of overlaid paper, animate the space with a rhythm—with a beat--, with, around and through the figures.
Each ensemble is an invitation to take a look which is at once contemplative and creative.

Rightness and Tactile Visibility
By Jean-Christophe Bailly
Translated by John Tittensor
In Edition Adera, 2009

Describing is maybe the most difficult thing, but that's what you have to do, at least at the start. What can you see ? On the one hand books - call them notebooks if you like - full of collages, quotations, words and images. And on the other, panels of accumulated layers of stretched paper, some of them quite big, bearing line drawings with (sometimes numerous) little windows cut into them and words appearing in the windows. And the first thing you feel faced with these books and panels is a sense of the unknown : not only because of the novelty of what you're seeing - which bears no relation to anything you've ever seen before - but also, and mainly, because of the sensation of beholding a work in progress, an ink and paper project which is growing and which you can't imagine being brought to an end. The pages of the books, the layers of the panels, the books as an archive and the panels as a projection or as pages released or emancipated, ail combine to form a complex configuration in which writing, reading and looking are offered becalmed, as if at the core of some pure beginning. What we are confronted with is both collection (the rationale of the book, of the heaping-up of pages) and distribution (the rationale of the panel as part of the classical system of frontal exposure to the eye). Except that collection and distribution intersect, the successive layers and emergent words of the panel also forming a kind of archive while the books too, under glass, offer themselves to our gaze.

But in addition to this intersection, which is a matter of method, there is another, which is a matter of meaning and has to do with the very advent of meaning : whether the issue is words (these strange columns they emerge from like survivors) or images (these outlines of pale or assertive figures forming a choreography of perfectly immobile lines on the panels), the question being put, it seems to me - and it can only be re-put, endlessly - is that of our earliest method of approach, that of language, of the system of signs through which we have learnt to pick up the signais sent out by the world. There exist an origin and a figurative reality of writing, bearing the mark, distinctive in each case, of hieroglyphs and ideograms. Nonetheless words remember this origin, from which the alphabetical signs have become detached : words emit images, or what the thin kers of the Middle Ages called copies - in every designation there is a tracing. Conversely the outlines of the forms - and such would be the effect of the very etching of the hieroglyph ; but doubtless too, here, is the dizzying quality of the figure - designate, or name.

It is this crisscrossing of the systems of name and outline, i. e. of writing and drawing, that Christelle Franc has decided to explore. But has she actually decided ? I think not, in fact ; it isn't the right term. Rather this has come to her as an inescapable task : instead of simply reading, cutting language up into integrated units of meaning; instead of sim ply looking, sampling and tracing outlines. And working, within these two (simultaneous) options, from a range of materials of which the dictionary is the paradigm. The dictionary : in other words the paradise of the list and the definition, of storage and association and also, indubitably, of a kind of roving thought process that uses definitions and their abruptness like Japanese stepping stones, as a means of traversing the shifting mass of the thinkable.

For the dictionary definition, and more broadly the document, are for Christelle Franc no more than points of departure, notches or triggering points : as if, in a way, the definition hasn't really been accepted ; as if there were the strictest parallel between its deconstruction (testified to by each word saved or returned) and the act of tracing and outlining. The outcome is a dual movement of disquiet and trust, detachment and proximity, just as when you gropingly touch something; l'm thinking here, of course, of the game of blind man's buff, which could thus be taken to some extent as an allegory of what Christelle Franc has set out to do in the forest of signs. This is work as a kind of (re)commencement, which is to  say like childhood or as in childhood : not rejecting the arbitrariness of signs, but seeking to trace out of their constellations and formations a clear, non-arb itrary line imbued with the joy of an existence. Not an already-present existence, not a dwellingplace, but something much lighter, something so to speak in the process of coming or coming back, working from a proven trace that could as easily be a cultural monument, like the Tower of Babel or Vermeer's Music Lesson as a quivering on the surface of water, a ricochet, or maybe ivy twining round a tree.

Ultimately what is being explored in this way is the mystery of the infinity of meaning, and its near neighbour, that of the possibility of infinite expansion for each notch, even though each initially presented as finite : definition and outline, which are just such notches, or such encodings, and which, as such, are perfect representations of what presents as finite, are only, at the same time, outcrops ; and it is as such, this time, that breaking through, and brushing against us, they broaden infinitely our field of experience. In drawing language and writing the outline - painters in ancient Egypt were called copiers of outlines - Christelle Franc works patiently, a little like an embroiderer, at cleaning and honing the tool of our approach: with what she makes, and her embroidering, one has the impression of running one's finger along the very stitching of meaning. She calls up this tactility, which underpins the visible and the legible, on the skin of the paper, in a series of operations at once decisive and discreet out of which arise, spectrally, an image which seems fragile only because it is in equilibrium between emergence and effacement. An equilibrium on which hinges the rightness of her work.

Text by Jean-Christophe Royoux
In Je mehr Ich zeichne - Zeichnung als Weltentwurf, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, Dumont Buchverlag, 2010
Translated by Klaus Roth

Long wooden panels are covered with translucent sheets of paper which are stacked up, layer upon layer, tone upon tone. They are covered with drawings and cut out windows, recalling advent calendars. Some handwritten names, verbs and adjectives emerge from them while other words vanish into the opacified flesh of the paper as you tiptoe away, only leaving a series of muffled but still intelligible echoes to come through. Layers, strata select and sort out, eventually letting wards and lines emerge, that have been obviously chosen to compose a first level of references.
Within the stemma of each new series of panels, a book layout always serves as matrix. On large white sheets of paper are thriftily assembled images, text fragments (quotes), and listed words. To be more exact, it should be said that in the beginning a pattern is read and unravelled by mental connections - a pattern which is itself the outcome of a surviving image. In the beginning there has thus been the impression of a detail in the memory, whose imprint is comparable to that of a seal dipped in wàx.
ln the shift from book to panel, tracing has the essential role of highlighting the pattern. Tracing is a way of releasing the spirit of the image towards its ghost, a way of stripping it down to select a signalling detail within il. Each saved element, drawing or word, sends a signal. It inserts itself into a network of analogies, a crisscrossing of connections, which cancels the distinction between image and text. One of the first effects of Christelle Franc's work is to recapture in writing the concept of image that existed before words and things were differentiated. The image calls for the word, which calls far another word, which calls far another image: This tangle of echoes weaves a network of meanings which is always looser than a sentence. « It's a whole », as Christelle Franc (born in 1974) insists several times, it's a constellation - motionless cinema, deployed in space like a poem by Mallarmé in his last years.
Here, words and seals convey meaning but also largely spill over what they are supposed to say and which titles are there to stress - The Creation, The Five Senses, The Four Seasons, The Battles. Poems ? Probably, if the space of the poem is the open space of correspondences, of the colliding of subjective and objective experiences ; if it is both presentation of the raw material of meaning in its disjointed elements and unhindered circulation of joint elements through meetings, echoes, hints, suggestions. If it is both the storing or warehousing space of "tokens" - of these subtle and singular materials through which meaning 'comes to things : texts, images, words - and the restrained space of their unleashing.
The space of the poem thus fuses with the space of thought. Its effects of tracing and persistence of the sign are initially the metaphor of the magic square of memory, which fades away and retains at the same time. Unlike the arts of memory, however, what is retained here never builds into a common sense, only into a highly contingent sensitive sense. Looking at these panels or boards so precisely constructed, the only thing that I know is that I don't know anything. If there is any learning device, it is in the sense of 'spiritual exercises', like some self-discipline of attention to diversity, to what you feel and experience, to what you are and become.

Text by Eva Schmidt
In Je mehr Ich zeichne - Zeichnung als Weltentwurf, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, Dumont Buchverlag, 2010

(...) Drawing as art criticism
Is it possible to employ a visible medium in order to approach the works of other artists, to reflect and comment on them, like the linguistic discourse of the art critic ? Drawing certainly possesses the necessary degree of abstraction for this task. Its closeness to writing enables it to formulate statements about artworks without currying favour with their authors. Katharina Meldner overlaps the contours of key works of recent art history. The artworks and their significant shapes appear like spectres, overlapping, standing out and receding once again with their different coloured lines. Christelle Franc has also made advancing and receding pictorial information into the theme of her drawings. On transparent papers, as layers covering picture panels, words and lines are interwoven in front of and behind one another to form incorporeal images. In each case, their starting and reference point is a concrete, succinct book of work comprising pictures and notes. A network of comparative perspectives is woven between the book and the picture panels. Reduction to contours in Meldner's work, the overlapping of fragmentary images and concepts in Franc's case: these processes correspond to Markus Tarkawian's working method based on pattern images. He appropriates the artworks of others ironically, by quickly reducing them to their essentials using simple outlines, caricature-like, and transposing the resulting drawing into the future. He foresees the artwork that has not yet been produced, extending the work of the art critic - as a drawing prophet - into the future. (...)