Sylvie Fanchon

Galerie Bernard Jordan

For Sylvie Fanchon, painting comes after: after photography, after film, after television, after video—all these mediations between man and reality with which she weaves a tense dialogue. To technical means, she prefers the hand—its imperfections, which she accepts but does not particularly seek out, as well as its availability; to the dematerialization of the world that these visual means effect, she contrasts the physical contact of painting; to their instantaneity, she responds with slow, careful, layered craft. Faced with the proliferation and inflation of images, she opts for a radical economy of means: These modestly scaled works bear no titles, and there are never more than two colors per canvas, always brought together in strong contrast (pink and yellow, black and white); single, simple forms are painted with minimal material effects, lending the whole a self-contained flatness.

Nothing spectacular, then, and nothing overbearing. For this show, Fanchon chose forms with supple contours that recall clouds, plumes of smoke, or foliage: Whether borrowed from nature, architectural ornament, or even comic books, they are like pattern elements—secondary or marginal, meant to be repeated—which Fanchon has instead separated, isolated, and made central. These motifs thereby acquire a new autonomy. Furthermore, their treatment in fl at tints contrasts sharply with the bulges of their contours, and the colors they are cloaked in—white on black, acid hues or artificial ones that seem somehow edible, like bubble-gum pink or lemon yellow, instead of the natural greens of vegetation—blur their identities. Detached from all context without losing any of their evocative power, the forms are kept in a state of suspension reinforced by a tangible indeterminacy of scale: Have these details been enlarged or reduced to become subjects of painting and in order to fit the dimensions of the canvas so perfectly? Are these works schematic fragments of an existing world that the artist offers for our examination, or are they models, blueprints, matrices of a world waiting to be constructed? Are they still lifes painted after reality or maps of the imaginary? Despite the apparent clarity of things, the eye cannot decide, unsettled as it is by an effect of light that, like a flash, immobilizes everything even while exalting it.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because in any case the task at hand is to transcribe a reality according to a specific code, with the singular henceforth becoming a symbol. Since the late ’80s, Fanchon has been creating a sort of heraldry for the era of pictographic communication, a heraldry of indeterminacy and opacity to counter the insipidity and overlegibility of the world.

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.