Sylvie Fanchon

1953Nairobi, Kenya | 2023Paris, France
— Sylvie Fanchon

French painter.

Sylvie Fanchon studied at the Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 1980s. After graduating, she launched her career against the backdrop of a holistic reflection centred on her practice as a painter. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1987, at Galerie Françoise Palluel in Paris. This initial project saw her works characterised by large, simple geometric forms: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles, evoking the legacy of modern painters such as Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). S. Fanchon soon broke away from these male role models, however, in order to forge her own relationship to her chosen medium. Her oeuvre became punctuated by periods reflecting her experiments with a range of different pictorial techniques: duotone, evenness of surface, lack of depth and schematic forms. She then threw off the shackles of art history to undertake a personal reflection on painting, refusing to choose between the abstract and the figurative, and addressing a new lexicon of images drawn from popular culture and everyday life.

In the 2000s S. Fanchon widened her palette in her quest for increasingly figurative forms. In 2007 the Musée de Picardie in Amiens devoted a solo exhibition to her work titled Ronds-Points [literally “round dots” but also the French word for roundabouts], in which she presented a series of canvases featuring her famous bubbles, black forms against a yellow background. In 2010 she took her art one step further through two new notions of form, with particular reference to the motif of sticky tape. She added bands to her pictures, incorporating the trace of a gesture: covering and tearing. During this same period the artist began portraying American cartoon characters such as Road Runner and Droopy – Sans titre (caractères) (2009) – portraying them in the shape of figures but also as symbols. It was at this stage that S. Fanchon began to gain more institutional support. As well as receiving several invitations to hold solo exhibitions – not least from the Centre Régional d’Art Contemporain (CRAC) in Sète in 2012 and 2015 – she participated in group shows, including at the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne (MAC VAL) in Vitry-sur-Seine in 2014 and the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc-Jean (MUDAM) in Luxembourg in 2017-2018. In 2018-2019 she presented two significant solo exhibitions, the first – QUEPUISJEFAIREPOURVOUS AIDER [How can I help you?] at the Espace de l’Art Concret in Mouans-Sartoux and the second, Je m’appelle Cortana [My name is Cortana] at the FRAC Franche-Comté in Besançon. These titles are derived from the robot voice on her mobile phone, which is theoretically supposed to provide assistance and answer questions. Although the artist calls on new technology, however, it is always in order to enhance her one and only medium: painting. In so doing, S. Franchon manages to bridge the generational divide and target a wide spectrum of younger artists, who follow and find inspiration in her research. From 2001 she divided her time teaching at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, becoming one of the first women to run a studio there. Her departure in 2019 marked the end of an era and highlighted her decisive role between 2000 and 2020. The powerful attachment to S. Fanchon’s pictorial practice shown by her former pupils manifests itself by their desire to continue working with her. This was borne out in a 2015 solo exhibition titled Simple et facile [Simple and easy] at Palette Terre in Paris, instigated by one of her former students, Bastien Cosson (born 1988).
Around fifty of her works are held in public collections, shared between fifteen major French institutions including the MAC VAL, the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP), the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and eight FRAC (Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain).

Marion Vasseur Raluy

Translated from French by Caroline Taylor-Bouché.

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