Installation shot, Soho20Chelsea Gallery 2012

Polarities of Perception in the work of Francine leClercq
Ali Soltani, 2012 NY

Writing freely without counting the artist (yet) as the agent through which a work might come into being, art can be said to be the sum total of, the happy verdict of an interaction between at least two entities, a self proclaiming enunciator and its summoned addressee, the spectator; and one of the primary conditions that facilitates this transaction, at least when it concerns painting, is [ Looking: to turn one’s eyes towards something or in some direction in order to see].
Now returning to the artist, Francine leClercq has been occupied with doing just that, turning one’s eyes toward something, the question is why this is particularly significant in the case of this artist when after all, all artists put things on view to be perceived?
To compound the question in hope of finding an answer, how does perception in the work of Francine LeClercq operate, turning to these seemingly weighty, shifting vectors as if the gaze itself in its respective orientation has suddenly expanded and solidified to an impenetrable prism transfixed forever as the immaterial material of this painter of voids, in other words, how does viewing become a component of the work, not in obvious reciprocity, the casual hanky-panky in the happenstance of a work and a viewer; but as an ungraspable fleeting material that its sense of loss is undeniable like a somatic sensation.

Francine leClercq is a painter of mostly dripping vacuous fields that although they may address the viewer, or its other, at first glance, there is little to suggest that they are anything but what they seem; what we see in their blunt materiality vacantly looking back are mere peculiarities owed to aspects of their making i.e. the application of medium on canvas, pigmentation, saturation and viscosity, centripetal or centrifugal flow having to do with density of material, centrality and margin, orientation, etc., etc., …  And yet it is precisely in the presence of the viewer, to whom they address themselves that the seeming inward matter of fact-ness of these works begin to contain something much larger than themselves residing outside their material construct, and we realize the primary perception we earlier talked about is a means to a different plane of things,the artist through the work is part curator part choreographer infusing the movements and postures about an arrangement in a specific space, and the viewer in this context is a recruited shape shifter, instantaneously the exempted perceiver, perceived in as it were, the concomitant scenario of  a tableau vivant.
In this regard the peculiar trans-historical links and references to specific notable works and their ever so dimly ghost-like appearance (or disappearance) under a pool of highly reflective material, casting doubt on the thing just seen as if it may or may not have been an optical error due to some mimetic mental construct, seem to invest the work in the destabilization brought about by the historical character of contemporary perception while at the same time, grounding it in its dialectical other which trails it like a foreshortened shadow. And this otherness which migrates between the abutted custody of a hazy precedent and some chanced appearance of a certain unknown, makes for a conspired situation whereas the work is at once, centered, depicting a fixed moment, and released within the anistropic spatiality of a situation with shifting centres.
The notions of gaze and perception are thus constantly in flux, not only because of the constant interchangeability of subject and object and not just because the doubt factor divests the gaze of its supreme authority on perception, but also through a subtle warpage of the perceptual field, a restructuring by which we see and assimilate things, a kind of force that pulls us down, I want to say gravity but one that is exerted by the horizontality of the artist’s studio where the work is produced.

In practicality the site of exhibition at the SOHO20 Gallery painted half black down to the floor, reminds one of a dance set that will govern the choreography around a patchwork of fragments that don’t immediately seem to have a discernible order. The submerging effect evoked by the blackness  below the standard visual line at 60 inches is an innovation, both, with regard to the normative heightened tension between hung works and their backdrop, and more importantly in this instance, as a device to inverse and restore to the work, the horizontality of its production that is otherwise countered by the verticality of their hanging as well as the uprightness of the viewer in front of it.  The hung works insubordinately placed,  diagonal to the viewing gaze pull the head and shoulder towards them. Here, this is not the gaze that is beholding the work, it isn’t the ‘I’ that is exercising its power, rather, we are made to feel that we are in the presence of a work, made part of it, refigured and folded parallel to the horizontality of the ground, as if we have just recovered from a fall, wrestling with gravity, pushing it down as we struggle to pull up, half seated, our hands resting on a ledge, our arms erect and tensed supporting the arch of our torso peering over a ledge into a pool from where emerges a figure, our other, Narcissus, as Caravaggio painted us. Two ellipses on the walls, placed diametrically, one depicting a reflected Narcissus , the upper half of the oval voided, the amorous subject already departed, already united with its inverted image, and the other ellipse depicting a single knee, the bared projecting knee of Narcissus isolated and glossed over without its reflected counterpart, testifies to a former present and anchors the loss; together, they frame and form the ethereal megalith, the stereoscopic figuration of absence.

We have spiraled passed and beyond Caravaggio, from image to text to the everlasting words once put by Alberti:

“What is painting but the act of embracing by means of art the surface of the pool?”



Narcissus Reflected

October 2012
Narcissism In Black

The painted "Narcissus", attributed to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio ca 1599, is the focal image of Francine LeClercq's installation, whereas the erring gaze of Narcissus, the visual echo reverberating between the illusionistic picture plane and the actual gallery setting, the existential reciprocity between the subject and object, form and content,... are parallel notions and traits that LeClercq uses to investigate the modern context.  LeClerq recently caught up with NY Arts to talk about her show on view.
"My work has found its ground in the process of painting and the “idea” of painting, with a deeper focus on a complementary dialogue between materiality, content, the exhibition space, and the encounter with the viewer.
Often times my projects consist of multiples works, grouped around a specific theme related to painting and the question of viewing art. In this respect, I have always felt that there is something quite modern in the way Narcissus in Caravaggio’s painting is kneeling, looking down, utterly immersed, not too unlike a painter mesmerized by a pool of paint on the floor, and quite in contrast with the casual upright viewer in front of a painting, and I like this idea of the hybrid viewer/painter because it reaffirms the notion for me that the viewer is very much a component of the work; and by extension, the arrangement of the work in the space and the way the viewer enters a work, that is the choreographic aspect needed to be addressed.
Placed below a black spatial demarcation drawn at 60 inches above the floor (a convention of hanging art on center in a gallery to align with the eye of the spectator), two elliptical canvases, one depicting the isolated knee of the original painting (“Narcissus’ Knee”), and the other the reflected image without its counterpart ( “Narcissus’ Other”), face each other. Their low position invite the viewer to echo the physical genuflect and the lowered gaze of the mythical character in order to immerse himself in the compositional horizontality of the space. The third piece is a low horizontal reflecting puddle of black resin where the slightly raised outlines of Narcissus create distortion of the reflected space and viewer."