Spotlight: Françoise Pétrovitch’s Latest Paintings Explore Ambiguous Emotional Zones

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About the Artist: French artist Françoise Pétrovitch (b. 1964) is a nimble explorer of media, with a body of work that encompasses everything from ceramics to video to painting—and she has developed a particular reputation for her drawings and ink wash works. Pétrovitch’s sources of inspiration are equally diverse; she cites as inspiration painters like Henri Matisse but also literary influences, specifically the writing of women authors like Joyce Carol Oates and Marguerite Duras. Figuration, especially the human form, plays an important role in Pétrovitch’s art; it adds a narrative quality, but also acts as a support for delicate colorwork that imparts a sense of otherworldliness. The artist has been the subject of dozens of solo exhibitions, and in her current show with Helwaser Gallery, New York, “Françoise Pétrovitch: Indigo Children,” viewers are invited to acquaint themselves with her most recent body of work. This year, Pétrovitch was the recipient of one of France’s greatest honors, a commission by the Ministry of Culture to design a national postage stamp; she is the first living artist to have received this honor.

French stamp designed by Françoise Pétrovitch, 2022. Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

National postage stamp designed by Françoise Pétrovitch, commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture, 2022. Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Why We Like It: “Indigo Children” contains several works that exemplify Pétrovitch’s signature visual language, and it is a testament to the artist’s mastery of color. With her unique ability to wash and graduate tints and tones, the figures in her work—most of whom appear as adolescents—are illuminated by a distinctive glow, immediately recognizable as coming from an unnatural light source, such as a phone, computer, or other device. At once beautiful and uncanny, the luminosity and composition of these works lend themselves to a timely conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of our tech-tethered reality. Further, works like (2022), showing a young girl peering out from behind a stark white, expressionless mask, and (2022), showing a brightly lit woman embracing a shadowy figure, expand the thematic nuances of the show. Together, the works in the exhibition invite introspection and larger considerations about how we connect.

According to the Gallery: “It is a lonely universe Pétrovitch creates, with the flattened, graphic quality of a storybook. Yet this storybook resists all narrative arc; it leaks and bleeds around the page edges, with stray brushstrokes, suggestive wisps, and hazy color-field backgrounds. These, the artist describes, are ‘zones of potential transformation.’ ‘Indigo Children’ contains an ambiguity of both form and content, wherein action and explanation, should they exist, occur just beyond view. Each work confronts us like a creeping feeling: mirroring the muddy and anxious periods of transition and disorientation captured within them.”

See works from the exhibition below.

Françoise Pétrovitch, The Ring (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, Mask (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, Sans Titre (Untitled) (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, Sans Titre (Untitled) (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

Françoise Pétrovitch, (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York.

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