Spotlight: Belgian Conceptual Artist Michel François Playfully Challenges the Limits of Perception in a New Naples Exhibition

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About the Artist: Belgian conceptual artist Michel François (b. 1956) has an endlessly mutable style that relies on building abstract relationships between medium and context and exploring the limits of different materials. François’ practice is fundamentally multimedia—ranging from video and photography to painting and sculpture—allowing him to forge tensions and connections through medium manipulation and mine the plasticity of contextual perception and viewer understanding. At the crux of François’ creative pursuit is an ongoing navigation of the interactions that occur between the viewer, space, and object, and the ways these different relationships can be transformed through measured interventions. François had this first solo exhibition in 1980, and over the course of his more than four-decade career has been the subject of dozens of solo shows, including at the institutional level with shows at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris; SMAK, Gent; and Minsheng Museum, Shanghai, among others.

What You Need to Know: Following Michel François’ exhibition “Contre nature” at Bozar, Centre of Fine Arts, Brussels, in which work dating from across 40 years operated in tandem with the exhibition to create a “total artwork,” Alfonso Artiaco Gallery, Naples, has opened a solo exhibition of the artist’s work. On view through May 13, 2023, François’ eponymous show features the expected diversity of medium recognizable of his practice. Including works on paper, metal sculpture, and found object compositions, the exhibition at Alfonso Artiaco follows a similar logic to the Bozar exhibition in that it brings together significant works from across François’ oeuvre that are reconsidered through the context of the gallery’s site inside the Piazzetta Nilo and resulting in a new “whole.” The collocation of works from different periods in François career and the rooms of the gallery offer new insight not only into the works themselves, but the nature of viewership itself.

Why We Like It: Within the historical rooms of the Piazzetta Nilo, François’s contemporary, conceptual works are emphasized through their juxtaposition with their context, inherently inviting the viewer to reflectively consider the placement of the works as well as their own presence in the exhibition. Recalling movements such as Arte Povera or 1960s Minimalism, François’ fascination with the subtle nuances that can be achieved with his medium is apparent. In works such as (2023), the play between line and perception are changeable depending on vantage point, as the metal bands are placed perpendicular to the wall. Similarly, (2010)—a work from over a decade earlier than —plays with the idea of drawing, line, and space. Viewed frontally, it could almost be mistaken for a drawn scribble directly on the gallery wall, but from the side the play on space becomes central to the work. François preoccupation with line and its ability to be a driving force of optical movement is perhaps most apparent in his works on paper included in the show. Both a series of silkscreen on paper and a series of graphite on paper show an experimental pursuit of finding movement through various approaches to quality and character of line, creating either soft, vibrational waves or distinct, geometric shapes that appear to melt down into themselves.

See inside the exhibition and featured works below.

Installation view of "Michel François" (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco.

Installation view of “Michel François” (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, Parpaing bleu (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, A souffle perdu (line black and red line) (2018). Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, (line black and red line) (2018). Photo: Grafiluce. Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, Endless Drawing (unframed) (2023). Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, (unframed) (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, Untitled (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, Untitled (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, Scribble (2010). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Michel François, (2010). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco, Naples.

Installation view of "Michel François" (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco.

Installation view of “Michel François” (2023). Photo: Grafiluce. Courtesy of Alfonso Artiaco.

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