October Gallery, London is excited to announce reMembering, an exhibition of new works by Sylvie Franquet. The artist’s first solo presentation will run from 1st December to 28th January. A private view will be held on 30th November.
Sylvie Franquet is a discovery. Born in Belgium, she read Arabic and Islamic Studies at Ghent and Cairo universities. Much of her life has been spent immersed in the Mediterranean world, reading, travelling widely throughout the region, and writing extensively on Middle Eastern culture. Out of this has come the unique artistic voice in reMembering, which layers word and image, ancient myth and everyday life, in textile, tapestries, collage and embroidered cloth dolls.
Franquet reworks found tapestries, showing a preference for those based on canonical works of art. She overlays these with further images and with found words from poets and thinkers, and text messages from friends. She cites Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone da Pensiere, with its dense collation of thoughts, ephemera and philosophies, as influencing her approach. The laborious process of unpicking, repairing and reworking can take months, resulting in a metamorphosis achieved by the magic power of the needle.
Needlepoint has for centuries been seen as the domain of the female. Franquet is fascinated by this inheritance: the needlepoints she finds are based on paintings by men, who until recently had a monopoly on the visual depiction of women. Those images were then reinforced by women sewing, and are now transformed by her needle. This complex history of gendered production and reaction is a central concern of Franquet’s work: reMembering questions attitudes surrounding gender and social and creative status. An electric aesthetic reminiscent of punk imbues the stitching with the look of pixels. Franquet uses rhizomatic layering of texts and languages that, in her hands, take on the nature of rebellious graffiti and radical twitter feeds.
The Poupées (mannequins) develop this theme: Franquet sews life-size fabric sculptures, pattern-cut from her own body and tattooed in a similar graffiti to the tapestries. These remembered/reconstructed female bodies function as repositories of memory, stories and myth. Alongside these figures hang a battalion of Wayward Sisters, small cloth dolls chattering with overstitched words of wisdom.
Franquet’s work has been featured in Vogue and Elle, and her art was included in the critically-acclaimed exhibition More Material, curated by Duro Olowu at Salon 94 in New York. She also participated in the 2015 Féminin Pluriel exhibition at Fondation Dar Bellarj in Marrakech. The October Gallery exhibition will be her first major presentation, and the first public showing of the Poupées and The Wayward Sisters.