Michel François

Sint-Truiden Belgium 1956, lives and works in Brussels

The generation of new meanings for known images and everyday situations is central to the work of Michel François. In doing this he uses a variety of means and media. Art critic Robbert Roos: “(...) the most inconsequential things are given a presentation of monumental proportions. By enlarging them, zooming in on them, cropping them very precisely and arranging them subtly François raises the most ephemeral matters to a expressive level.”  This transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary is presented to the viewer as a kind of invitation. The exhibition Déjà vu has been set up by the artist as a route involving various impressions and experiences, and the visitor becomes a participant in the associative leaps contained in his work.

François himself has often compared his way of working to the rhizome: the metaphor of plant roots spreading in different directions. Plants and trees emerge in his work with striking frequency. He has photographed, for instance, countless cacti and succulents, as well as all sorts of gnarled tree stumps and trunks. These are surprising observations of the irregular structure, the sculptural form or the pattern of the bark.

The contrast of convex and concave forms, of  interior and exterior, is another recurrent them in his work. There are many photographs of rings, holes, cavities and bulgings. Ordinary objects – a ball of string, an oval bar of soap, a car tire or a balloon – suddenly take on different connotations as fleeting but massive forms.It is tempting to regard this in itself as a metaphorical concern – as the desire to erase common interpretations in order to make room for new meanings.

The registrations of Michel François are characterized not only by meticulous observation and almost poetic associations, but also by a close involvement with the world. The photographs made during his considerable travels attest to this as well. These are portraits of everyday life, people working and children playing, taken in an ostensibly straightforward manner and yet displaying an ambiguousness of meaning. It is this contradiction of capturing change and movement which is so characteristic of his entire body of work. That contradiction arises in the juxtaposition of the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, the static and the dynamic, and in the notion of time versus timelessness.

Movement and change emerge in all sorts of ways in his work: in the choice of  materials (such as water and soap) that have no fixed shape, in the associations with plant growth, in the transformation of objects (such as bottles that fall and break) or the mirroring of images and arrangements. With his work Michel François manages to set our senses on edge in a subtle manner. His unorthodox fascination with materials, forms and images, and the way in which he records and presents them, disrupts expectations and offers new connotations. Like a poet, François seems to formulate a new language with existing ‘words’, constantly seeking what he calls “the beauty of the experience.”