Françoise Pétrovitch

1964 | Chambéry, France
Françoise Pétrovitch — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Hervé Plumet, Françoise Petrovitch, 2021, © Françoise Pétrovitch, Semiose Paris © Adagp, Paris 2021 © Photo Hervé Plumet © FHEL 2021

French artist.

Françoise Pétrovitch grew up in Savoie and studied applied arts in Lyon, after which she studied printmaking and painting in workshops at the École normale supérieure in Cachan. Since her graduation from the ENS in the late 1980s, she has taught printmaking at the École Estienne in Paris. Her teaching and her artistic practice have long fed into one another, and continue to do so.

Despite the foundations of her work being printmaking and drawing, her oeuvre containing an impressive collection of printed material, F. Pétrovitch has been practicing a wide range of techniques since the 2000s, notably producing works in ceramic and bronze. Her first solo exhibition was held in 1995 at the Polaris Gallery in Paris, and was also the occasion of her first artist’s book. The wealth of processes she uses goes hand in hand with her openness to explore different media and formats depending on her current theme. F. Pétrovitch is interested in fragile details: dried leaves are the pages of her intimate journals in the series Herbiers (1994); but also in the travel diaries which provided inspiration for the monumental stage curtain designed for the opera L’Abrégé des merveilles de Marco Polo (A Summary of the Wonders of Marco Polo, 2021).

Through her art, F. Pétrovitch throws light on vulnerable beings, be they animals or people: rabbits, birds and dogs roam her sometimes hybrid bestiary, tender beings that seem to embody comfort and hope. She might be drawn, too, to stories of normal adolescents with their mundane fears and weakness, to retired people, to a portrait of a troubled childhood. Her anti-heroes often express a certain unease, an existential disquiet. We ask ourselves who these children might be who have cut their macabre dolls into pieces in the series Poupées(Dolls, 2005-2010), or what has happened to the women walking on unstable high heels in ink wash and coloured pencil in Tenir debout (Stand up, 2003).

The artist’s work gained recognition in the 2000s notably because of her spontaneous single-gesture large washes, and with the beginning of her production of ceramic works in 2005 –  she has drawn associations between these two techniques, citing a sense of automatism and the rapidity of the gestures involved. 2011 marked the beginning of her collaboration with the Semiose Gallery, which led to further development of her printed work, the production of her first video, Le Loup et le Loup (The Wolf and The Wolf), and a solo exhibition at Paris’ Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature). She then returned to oil painting, more precisely genre painting, concentrating on still lives and portraiture. Her subjects remain mysterious, ambivalent beings, with their eyes closed and their hands covering their faces. More recently, this fascination with gesture has led her into the performing arts, specifically into the conception and design of stage sets and costumes.

In 2021, F. Pétrovitch was the recipient of the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Drawing Prize, the first French artist to win it. That same year, the Hélène and Édouard Leclerc Fund mounted a retrospective of her work in Landerneau, followed in 2022 by an exhibition of her printed works at the French National Library in Paris. The artist is currently working on a large-format tapestry for the 2026 commemoration of 150 years since the death of writer George Sand, as part of the public art commission by the Cité internationale de la tapisserie(International Tapestry Centre) at Aubusson, supported by the Ministry of Culture.

Lucia Pesapane

Translated from the French by Flora Hibberd.

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