21.06.19 - 11.07.19

Preview | Thursday 20.06.19 | 18:00 - 20:00


Saskia Fernando Gallery

41 Horton Place Colombo 7, Sri Lanka

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    Edge Gallery, Dhaka / 19th March 2019

    National Museum Gallery, Dhaka / 23rd – 30th March 2019



    Invisibility and Responsibility in Fabienne Francotte’s “Being the Other”

    How do we speak about something we cannot see?  Fabienne Francotte’s Being the Other is concerned with giving this question form. This body of work maps junctures of shared trauma communicated through wordless intimacies experienced by the artist as she was invited into working with a community of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the five day drawing project. Arranged in three non-linear parts, the show speaks to the many ways in which latent trauma is carried precariously between the need to cope, to acknowledge and to persevere.


    The series of prayer mats laden with traces of their owners, explore the tangled interactions between the Rohingya men and their relationship to the divine. Treasured and carried with them over the course of their migration, Francotte captures these mats as they become emblems upon which both dispossession and hope are located. In these paintings, the feet of men, meet patterned fabric in a ritual embrace of solace and of longing. Together they observe a spirituality informed by displacement, their devotion: a sign to their community. Signs and symbols however by their very constitution cannot be devoid of agenda. This spirituality may solely be practice of consecration, or is it perhaps a way for the men to leverage a lost power previously enjoyed, over their lives and their community? Upon facing Francotte’s series of larger paintings, these questions feel beside the point. The works seem to be speaking about us, as much as they speak about this community. Following traces of bodies once whole, now violently contorted, Francotte inquires about what responsibility we have toward the visible or even the partially visible.


    In these works, lines that contour the bodies at moments disappear into their surroundings while elements like the face of a Burmese soldier, a dress once worn, a bottle of perfume, or a pair of shoes, emerge authoritatively on the canvas. All of them as stand-ins for a history that cannot be fully known. The empty backgrounds holding these isolated figures implicate the viewer in a kind of involvement. They ask us to consider how we maneuver questions of responsibility when we are confronted with the experiences of others.


    Another set of pieces, feature a collection of portraits stitched together; a reconstructed composite of selfies taken by the young girls and boys in the community. Rendered on brightly adorned plastic table cloths, these pieces reflect on the intimacies of friendship and the politics of solidarity as potentially powerful forces of resistance. The faces overlap each other, at times obscuring and at some points revealing, as if to say “stand behind me I will protect you”, or “if you can’t speak, I will speak!”. Together they form a community of balance and support. Adorned in make-up and posing for selfies they hold each other while looking firmly forward.


    Ariella Azoulay in her book The Civil Contract of Photography (2008) focuses on what to do when we encounter images of pain and suffering. She speaks to the questions that have long dominated the field of documentary: Who is allowed to speak about stories of pain, and how do we navigate the intricate web of privilege, empathy, and power dynamics as both makers and viewers? These questions feel pertinent to many practices in our contemporary moment. While quite distant from the documentary format, Being the Other should not be exempt from this inquiry. In her book Azoulay suggests a starting point to these considerations when she asks if we can “fight something that is inaccessible to the gaze?” Francotte’s works by virtue of being displayed in an exhibition provides the opportunity for this gaze to be exercised.


    A skimmed viewing of the pieces may risk engendering associations of loneliness, abuse, and suffering. The artist encourages sustained looking instead, particularly toward the images that a viewer may find hard to take in. Here, the layers to Azoulay’s question become clearer: The gaze is violent if it stands removed from the fight. Azoulay clarifies to us that we have a responsibility toward what has been made visible. A responsibility that in Francotte’s words, looks “to not just see the drama of the surface, but move beyond it into the container of the soul.” Perhaps these are the first steps in a path to action where to ‘be the other’ is not to compare pain, but instead to mutually recognize it in ourselves. To recognize the ways in which the mechanics of our lives are entangled in that of the other. Not to be mistaken merely as a call to empathy, this sense of mutuality is perhaps better understood in the words of Judith Butler (Undoing Gender 2004, p34) when she suggests that, “We must be undone in order to do ourselves: we must be part of a larger social fabric of existence in order to create who we are.»


    Sandev Handy



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    Interdisciplinary arts festival - Colombo, Sri Lanka

    Focusing on the theme : “Sea change” and curated by Natasha Ginwala

    25th – 31st January 2019

    Taking place in Rio omplex, Barefoot Gallery and B52 Grand Oriental Hotel



    Fabienne Francotte explores the shifting borderlines between land and sea in relation to urbanity.  As Colombo defines its future through the lens of development and prosperity through its interventions at the seashore, Francotte’s work exposes its underbelly.  The artist observes the creation of technological hubs, luxury real estate and urban beautification and the ways in which these efforts eliminate the ocean from communities that have been historically and intrinsically linked to it.   Francotte creates portraits of those erased from the areas of Pettah and Slave Island.  She considers what the forced exodus of this community far from the coast, means for the ways in which we approach regional collectivity in its links to the future of the subcontinent.  Her portraits unapologetically locate suffering on the faces of her subjects, by way of tracking violence exercised through infrastructure.



    When Francotte moved to Sri Lanka in 2016, she found elaborately decorated plastic tablecloths for sale on the streets of Pettah. Intrigued by them, these plastic tablecloths became the canvases for her works exhibited at Colomboscope. While plastic is a significant threat to marine ecology and the planetary system at large, Francote asks us to consider the politics of class and privilege often embedded in our environmental advocacy. She notes that polythene tableware, while harmful to the environment, is still often used within lower-income communities for its durability, inexpensiveness, and striking appeal. By locating these portraits on a visual plane that some may consider kitschy, the artist reflects on how contemporary aesthetics are often class biased constructions, and how histories of colonisation and Western aspiration can create structural hierarchies of taste in various strata of native communities.


    Sandev Handy



The catalogue

2019 - Galle Literary Festival

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    150 words profile




    Francotte’s portraits shown here in Galle tell a story, they are symbolizing the grace and importance of Muslim individuals in the Fort. She creates portraits showing magnetic personalities rather than celebrities.  The characters are all anonymous. She never works with real originals, she treats her models like images of her imagination. The installation extending the limits of graffiti showing monumental poster prints invites you to an emphatic compassion. Her style is simple and her drawing is powerful. The portrait is central and the details are surprising even in this open space minimised work.





    ARTRA magazine review

    Inspired by her personal journey through daily life and complexity of identity of each persona she encounters, Fabienne Francotte’s portraits at the Galle Art Trail explore the stories of the Muslim individuals who reside in the Fort.


    Born in Belgium, now residing in Colombo, Fabienne’s work of art are a visual interpretation of her encounters with different faces and experiences. As these symbolic works of art adorned the ancient walls of the Dutch Governor’s Mansions, it was succinct that each stroke on her drawings detailed her experience as she fondly recalled the individuals and their striking characteristics that inspired her portraits.


    The installation extended the limits of graffiti showing magnetic poster prints of personalities that are of grace and importance while evoking emphatic compassion.


2018 - It's like someone took my soul

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    This body of work titled "It's Like Someone Took My Soul" functions as a type of contact sheet, like an album of film negatives. Inspired by Fabienne's personal journey through daily life and the complexities of the Sri Lankan identities she meets, each portrait is a reconstruction of many -never one- individual.


    The works are infused with the essence of her many interactions, which then, at the time

    of their creation, spontaneously intermingle with her memories and her mood.

    While featuring external, physical features, her works lend insight to the inside of each persona. She reveals an interior human world, at times disturbing, but always beautiful. Through her art, Fabienne becomes an unintentional conduit of the soul.


    Her portraits are about the characteristics of class, gender, and race.

    They are a tale of the daily struggle showing distinctive appearances, expressions, and gestures. Her people are everyday and anonymous. Through them, she communicates the conflicting issues in Sri Lanka today: school and education, dreams and weddings, sex and business, silence and fear, courage and dedication, as well as religion and tolerance.


    Marguerite Richards






    An intimate study of People through paintings | Sunday Observer

    Feb 18, 2018 - Intense, arresting, overwhelming, “My paintings are an intimate study of the people around me,” says Fabienne Francotte. 'It's Like Someone Took My Soul' is ... The people who have suffered a lot are, “unable to talk about it… and enjoy the opening doors of Sri Lanka today. It is all inside and they are very ...

    (full article here)



    Faces and the stories they tell | The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

    Feb 25, 2018 - Fabienne Francotte's pieces ask questions about the face and the stories they tell. What layered histories, contexts and experiences live on a person's face? What stories live beyond it? “It's Like Someone Took My Soul”, an exhibition of the recent work of this Belgian artist, is now on at the Saskia Fernando ...

    (full article here)



    It's like someone took my soul | Art in Sri Lanka - Time Out

    Fabienne Francotte's artistic practice began 17 years ago while exploring the relationship between calligraphy, movement and philosophy. The care.

    (full article here)

2016 : moving to Sri Lanka



2016 - HUIS CLOS


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2015 - GLOSSA

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2015 - Le langage de la rupture



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    lieu privilégié.

    à part.

    en retrait.

    pour une collection de vies au pluriel.

    une succession de chapitres où défilent corps et portraits nés de souvenir disparus, revenus, de visions remontées, réinventées, d'échos et de résonances, de bégaiements, d'effondrements, de colère, de crainte, de nostalgie, de violence, de regards obliques et de tristesse.

    succession de chambres à part listées dans des cahiers à la recherche de la vérité des sens.

    quarante ans d'écriture et dix ans de dessins aux traits maladroits pour dépeindre cette humanité douloureuse sans hésitation.

    un résumé en quelques lignes concernant ce travail, cette recherche et le point de départ de toutes ces images nées bien souvent d'un repli dans une chambre à part.


    fabienne francotte




    Les visages endoloris de Fabienne Francotte


    À défaut d'espoir, ils sont pleins d'émotions, les visages endoloris des personnages croqués par Fabienne Francotte. Laquelle interprète leurs souffrances, réelles ou supposées, à partir d'un regard croisé, d'une impression fugitive. Énigmatiques à la fois, ses personnages témoignent de la douleur des autres, si tant est que ce ne soit la nôtre.

    Pourtant, dans sa forme, qu'avec tant de douceur la chose est-elle dite et décrite. Et le graphisme fin n'y est pas pour rien, qui donne de la légèreté dans la structuration des compositions. Et puis, il y a le vide des fonds qui, restant vierges, accentuent l'isolement du sujet. Enfin, pour mieux illustrer son propos, la peintre choisit de souligner un pan de chevelure, le creux d'une paupière...

    Alors intervient la couleur, mais là encore tout en réserve, avec l'usage de tons crayeux. Fabienne Francotte réussit à exprimer des ressentis douloureux, tout en les décrivant avec pudeur et sobriété. Elle nous rend ainsi la pilule douce à avaler.


    Ouest France - 10 Décembre 2013

2011 - All is forgiven

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    “All is forgiven”.  But not forgotten.

    Sounds like things are getting better but the difficult chapters of one’s life always remain.  The work becomes focused on pain utterly drawn on bodies and faces. Every single detail is emotionally complex but hits everybody.


    Fabienne Francotte



    Samenwerking met An Buyck (tekst)





    lente 1



    een golf van duiven


    over de vloedlijn van het huis


    drie maal

    zwelt                   deint uit

    het ruisen van hun klapwieken

    ik snuif de avond op

    en de geur van zachte regen

    op aarde

    die zo lang zonder was

    in een zee van wolken

    speurt                 halsreikend

    het oog van één duif


    met mijn armen vol lente

    sluit ik zacht de deur


    herfst 5



    zij zaten naast elkaar

    stilzwijgend op de bank

    en keken naar de tuin

    verdronken in de regen


    Een spoor van kauwen

    stak de hemel over


    zij zei :

    laten we opstaan

    en niet toezien

    hoe het langzaam donker wordt.




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    2008 the year of living dangerously.  It is about love and loss.

    “I lost my head as well as my sex” is a resume of a personal experience.

    The drawing suddenly becomes figurative and everything becomes explicit.

    We are facing disorder through a range of naked bodies and we are left to think about separation, promesses, lost dreams and the impact on our skin and in our soul.


    Fabienne Francotte


2007 - Le trait donne le "la"

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    Les mains se posent sur le clavier dans un accord final. Fin de la partition. Une symphonie s’achève, une sonate s’envole, un concerto a épuisé tous ses mouvements, la page d’une étude se tourne. La musique s’est tue.

    Il subsiste une résonance dans l’espace soudain vide. Comme la vibration d’un diapason jusqu’à son dernier souffle de métal.

    Et puis, plus rien. Le silence. Une page blanche.


    Mais sur cette page, pas de portées où s’appuyer. Juste le grain serré et l’espace infini du papier où le crayon se met à fredonner, à la recherche de la clef. Clef de Sol. Clef de Fa. C’est le trait qui va donner le La.


    Il faut inventer une autre écriture pour la musique. Un peu comme si on se demandait comment on va peindre le blanc quand fond la neige.


    La musique est la même, mais les instruments ont changé. Ni cordes, ni cuivres, ni percussions, ni partitions.

    Mines grasses, pointes sèches, plumes et pinceaux. Dans un silence assourdissant, ces instruments muets vont interpréter à leur tour l’âme de l’œuvre écoutée.


    Ça commence par une mesure, puis une autre peut-être, pas une note de trop, pas une note en moins. La partition est déjà écrite.

    La main se souvient. Des graves, des aigus, du rythme, des envolées, des trilles, des suspensions. Les yeux suivent le tracé des notes sur la ligne du temps aux doigtés soigneusement annotés. L’ébauche du tempo s’articule dans de savants collages, une composition linéaire s’esquisse dans un orchestre de matières.


    Il faut donner à voir ce qu’on a entendu dans les limites du papier. Faire un arrêt sur image. Aller à l’essentiel et, entre deux coups de timbales et de tonnerre, cadrer de cette déferlante de sons l’éclair de l’œuvre toute entière.



    Chris Vander Stappen, cinéaste


2005 - 45 CHARACTERS

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    Tableaux à quatre mains


    Les calligraphies de van de Walle et Francotte


    Deux noms pour une seule oeuvre et le plaisir de déchiffrer les signes calligraphiés par ces deux artistes conjuguant leur énergie. Avouons une fascination pour tout ce qui touche à l'écriture - du papier à la plume, de la gomme au jeu des belles lettres tracées avec application. Inutile de préciser que cette exposition sortant des sentiers battus de la peinture toujours recommencée nous ravit et ravira les amateurs de signes vus sous l'angle de la gestualité.


    Nathalie van de Walle consacre sa vie à la peinture et sa recherche est axée sur la construction, la reconstruction de paysages selon différentes techniques que ce soit la gravure, le collage voire le travail en trois dimensions.


    Fabienne Francotte, autodidacte, s'est intéressée à l'écriture à travers l'étude des calligraphies. Un art très ancien. Un art de l'exigence, une quête de vérités "plus métaphysiques qu'esthétiques". On est bien au-delà du jeu manuel et artisanal. Par le biais de lettres échangées, l'écriture de Fabienne séduit Nathalie. Nait alors un projet de réaliser des tableaux à quatre mains.


    L'une trace les signes, maitrise la plume ou le pinceau, tient compte des capacités absorbantes de la trame, crée des cadences comme s’il s'agissait de partitions musicales, invente un langage et des mots que seuls les initiés comprennent.


    L'autre remplit les vides de matière comme s’il fallait un support aux traces et comme si, sans ce support, "les écritures" risquaient de partir à la dérive.

    La démarche n'est pas insignifiante. Les calligraphes chevronnées comme Claude Mediavilla savent l'importance des rapports entre la calligraphie et la peinture abstraite.


    Signes et traces de Fabienne se posent, se croisent, se heurtent, se bousculent sur le support de façon libre et échevelée. C'est alors que Nathalie vient structurer le travail y allant à grands coups de matière épaisse, de toiles collées, de coulées vibrantes et colorées.  La lecture purement visuelle de ces logogrammes à la façon de Christian Dotremont célèbre la spontanéité du geste créatif bien que répétitif.


    Chaque toile raconte une histoire et l'on passerait des heures à tenter de déchiffrer ces égratignures qui sont un peu les mots de l'âme ...


    Colette Bertot, Galerie 2016, 16 rue de Pierres, 1000 Bruxelles

    Journal l'écho - 28 juin 2002



© fabienne francotte - 2018