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François Bel

  • Double Cliché 80x20x10cm
  • Concrete blue bubbles, 35x10x10cm
  • Tube rouge Rembrand 40x10x10
  • Double gousset, 40x10x10cm
  • Multicadrans, 35x12x10cm
  • Spray 2 parts rouge letters bubbles stars 40x12x12
  • Shining times,, 60x16x10cm, verre acrylique
  • Tube rouge, acrylic glass, 35x10x10cm
  • Fétiche converse all stars, 50x20x10cm
  • Leica, 60x20x10cm
  • Warhology orange, 43x14x10cm
  • gd tube bleu, 45x12x10cm

Download François Bel catalogue

Equally relaxed painting as he is sculpting and setting up installations, François Bel expresses himself using inlays in glass, aerial suspensions and modelled wire in his complex pieces, which claim to be just as eclectic as his inspiration. But whether he is working with numerous mediums or just one, his approach is always the same: using the distraction of familiar objects to question modern society, its individualism and habits of consumption. Using an offshoot system, inherited from Street Art, Pop Art and New Realism, the artist rethinks the reality of materiality. By locking day-to-day objects behind bars, hanging them in the air, or trapping them in blocks of synthesized glass, the artist exposes a stationary state which is both sublime and critical. Frozen in a rupture, explosion or levitation, they solidify with grace in a sort of aestheticized recycling and gain a completely new meaning. The juxtaposition of the criticism of consumerism and the poetry of recycled materiality, within his leaping, magical objects and little, incrusted ‘big bangs’, allows them to represent our dreams and repressed indignation. By mixing anger, frustration, fascination and sacredness, the artist is finally able to uniquely convert the worries of our society into physical representations. These artworks defy the laws of gravity and the logic of time to confront our own fragility with their changelessness. In an increasingly fast-paced society, where all is destined for obsolescence, Francois Bel puts forward the idea of reaching into this “other” space of unresolved objects and “moments” to try and stop time, the time that passes, consumes us and undeniably survives us!

Bio

Originally from Lyon, François Bel now lives and works in the south of France. He was brought up with Street Art and urban cultures, having spent his adolescence enjoying painting graffiti which lead to his pictorial exploration on canvas. As a young all-rounder, he studied music, becoming a professor of electronic music and then a DJ. Due to affinity and opportunity, he most notably embarked on a musical adventure with the rapper Tchad Unpoe, performing concerts across the country and abroad and even featuring in the trailer of the 2008 film ‘Mesrine’. However, he did not feel completely in his element and he soon abandoned his musical career to return to the Plastic Arts. A passion that had never really left him but that took just an inconsequential event to revive. The artist explained; ‘one morning on the streets of the Saint Aubin neighborhood, I found a broken television with several colored wires falling out of it. I took one and made a little flower out of it for my girlfriend at the time. Whilst I was trying to model the bouquet, I realized that for every poorly made petal, I could go back and do it again.’ Having ‘adored working with the material straight away’, the artist then decided to adopt it, creating at first ‘little stacks of nothing’, uniquely designing them, depending on his mood and inspiration. This lead him to launching himself into a real creative process, inspired by his fascination of the urban field, materiality and the never-ending human busyness. He developed his skills on canvas as well in the form of sculptures and installations by setting aside galvanized wires and creating more complex works (multiple material works), which are both critical and playful. Then, gradually, his interest in the symbolism of art, New Realism, the principles of repetition and the legacy of Pop Art, inspired him with many new ideas. One day he accidentally broke a bottle and came up with the concept of ‘Little Bangs’, along with the outline of a more poetic collection, focused on the symbolic exploitation of fragmented materiality, changeless in space and time.

Although he did not initially ‘really intend to exhibit’ his work, François Bel accepted the advice of a gallery-owner friend of his to show his work to the public. The artist recalls: ‘My first exhibition in a gallery was suggested to me in 2010 by a friend who had seen my creations whilst at my house for a drink. She had just opened her gallery in Toulouse. In the heat of the moment I accepted without even considering what it could lead to’. The exhibition was well and truly a success and the artist subsequently found himself quickly pushed to the forefront of Toulouse’s artistic scene. He exhibited again just one year later in a second gallery. He then embarked for Madagascar in 2012 as a resident artist in Antananarivo, with the support of the French Institute and the French ambassador. Following the publishing of his first catalogue in September of the same year, he multiplied the number of times he was exhibiting in France – in Aucumville, Paris then Calvi – as well as abroad: firstly, in Madrid, then Cologne and soon after that, Brussels. He was selected for the ‘Open Contest of Monaco Artists’ in 2014 at the L’Entrepôt gallery and also participated in many collective exhibitions before conquering Asia in 2015, exhibiting at Yang Hong Art Space Center in Pékin then at City Hall in Seoul. He also displayed his collection at the Mazades Cultural Centre and the Espace Roguet and finished 2015 beautifully by exhibiting a unique sculpture designed in partnership with the clock-making company Corum at Printemps Haussmann, Paris for the celebration of 60 years since the brand’s opening. In 2016, his creations were shown with success across the Atlantic in New York and Miami. Finally, in 2017, he held a solo shown entitiled ‘Société Ecran’ (Shell Corporation) in May at the Alban-Minville Cultural Centre followed by a second, personal exhibition ‘Fragile’ from October to December organized by the réseau Canopé of the Academy of Toulouse in the Ingres Gallery. With their elegance and perfect technical nature and their mystery, magic and capacity to let us dream, François Bel’s creations know how to seduce an ever-broadening audience of amateurs and collectors. He is currently represented internationally by many galleries, most notably in London and Anvers. François Bel is now looking to pursue his artistic exploration through ‘new installations, more abstract collections and larger elements.’

Sculptures and installations

Fascinated by ‘bustling city life’ but opposed to the ‘individualism and modern materialism’ of it, François Bel has started to design and create new pieces inspired by this feeling of indignation. He models rods of metal into a whole universe of small galvanized objects, supported by various stands or integrated into larger installations. He has re-adapted the iron wire to question ‘the evidence of unbalanced functionality in society’s routines’. Miniature figures, pages of letters and other familiar objects come together alongside oxidized fish bones, vanity trees, frenzied swarms of flies and small dehumanized silhouettes as totemic sculptures or on canvases. His first works were predominantly witnesses of our bustling, distorted, confined, modern society in cultural, social and economic forms. In his work on canvas, François Bel uses variation and repetition to achieve the effect of agitation and crowds which inspires his megalopolises. His scenes ‘Human Tetris’, ‘Le Barrio’ and ‘Pescados’ symbolize the oversight of men by men in the folly of large towns and in the race for consumerism.

In sculpture, the artist sees a huge significance in the motif of a tree as a representation of nature that the urban man tends all too often to forget. He explains; ‘In our society everything can seem fragile and fleeting and it is the same for nature. The symbol of the tree finds sense between fragility and stability. It allows me to personify natural forms.’ His ‘symbolic trees’, sculpted out of wire, become almost like places of rest, anchored in understanding and truth. They take root in concrete blocks or on stacks of encyclopedias and support sheets of metal and small words crafted from galvanized wire, representing emptiness.

Finally, in terms of his installations, Bel no longer uses iron wire but nylon thread to, little by little, express the structure of his thoughts. Floating and dreamlike or neurotic whirlwinds, leaping bar codes or clouds of plastic cups, his suspended objects deliver to us the artist’s illustrated messages denouncing an alienated society that is dependent on the media, tobacco and junk food. Commencing with references to popular culture as well as using repetition inspired by Pop Art and Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Readymade’ style, François Bel questions once again the vanity of our consumerist society, by making use of obsolete items that act as symbolic supports to his work about movement, space and time.

Little Bangs

Francois Bel is interested in the misappropriation and symbolism of everyday objects. He is going to one day create the decisive ‘Big Bang’ experience after accidentally breaking a bottle and wanting to capture the ‘positive dynamism’ of the explosion in his work. At first, he started to design with indignation as his prime concern, but subsequently took a greater interest in ‘the potential poeticism in the fact that things that can disappear’. Wanting to exploit the effect of fragmentation and recreate the movement of the explosion, he naturally turned directly to his preferred technique to find a way to suspend the composite elements of what would become his ‘Little Bangs’ in the air. Iron wires, as well as cages, were used to suspend the fragments with a complex hanging technique to manipulate the symbolism of the materials. He plays with the idea of compartmentalization through the medium ‘generally used in modern life for the manufacturing of fences and enclosures.’ His confined ‘Little Bangs’ have come to translate with originality our repressed indignation. In order to better immortalize the explosion in space and time, the artist soon imagined the trapped pieces of the explosion no longer in iron but glass.

By diversifying the concept of the ‘Little Bangs’ around the new materiel of solidified transparent glass, he has developed a unique technique of inclusion inspired by the works of Arman. This process is skillfully carried out by ‘casting’ then ‘buffing’ the pieces, and in some cases, it can take up to several days of work to complete each one. These transparent blocks reveal to us the magic of a completely unsupported, suspended levitation. Confused in his perception of reality, the spectator looks on in wonder and amazement, as if dazed, at this tower of incomprehensible magic. No, there is no wire. The ‘special effects’ that allow the creation to be possible are out of sight. But the artist, like any good magician, is careful not to reveal his secret. The lonely nature of the objects seems to be able to lead us to the reality of what we are familiar with: a tangible, expendable, affirmed world. Whether he is working with shattered bottles or smashed vinyl, the subject of his work is, in fact, carefully thought through, just as much for his fenced-in sculptures as for his captured Bangs. They all start with an actual ‘hunt for the subject’, followed by a rigorous investigation into the composition of the piece. He often collects his ideas from typically urban materiality and normally salvages unusable objects from here and there that are ‘already broken or bought for parts’, these often reflect his interest in culture and urban artistic styles. Smartphones, spray paint and pieces of concrete become “totem works”.

As well as being influenced by urban styles, the artist also takes much inspiration from other artists. His “Little Bangs”, based upon much larger themes, are always created in series, according to a principle of repetition, inherited from Pop Art and Street Art. Some of his work playfully and symbolically hovers between the two stylistic movements creating ‘the evolution of Pop against Street Art’. The same can be applied to his “Warhologies” which pay homage to the Pope of Pop. François Bel boldly creates and transforms the famous Campbell’s Tomato Soup tins into reliquaries for spray-paint caps. The artist played with a 3D representation of the deeply thought out stories of his “motifs”, to give them another reality. Paint was also used in these creations and solidified into small spheres within these blocks. His works nods at the pepsy style from the 60s and the optical illusions of Vasarely, with molecular balls escaping from a tin or spray-paint can and freezing in 3D within the glass boxes. In his series “Clichés”, the 3D transposition of the piece plays the camera at its own game. It can no longer capture 2D images on a film reel but has been caught itself, for instant in time, suspended in three-dimensionality.

Finally, whilst certain “Bangs” are solidified mid-explosion, dispersion and crumbling, there are others which appear split up, taken apart and dissected. Through the barbed wire and inside the acrylic glass, the spectator can see “anatomic” components of an old-fashioned rotary dial telephone, the escapement of an alarm clock or the complex mechanism of a Reflex camera. François Bel invites them to rediscover the enhanced, autopsied objects in order to denounce the “throw-away” attitude of our society. By allowing the invisible to be seen, we can question the mystery of our materiality. By doing this he can transform into sculpture an insight into one view of life. A life that is admittedly inanimate but that is undeniably a witness to history, its evolution, our production methods, habits of consumption, culture, environment and also finally, time. With the series “O’clock” and “Ring ring ring”, the artist captures this question of time more than ever to subtly depict ‘our inability to control everything’. By recreating movement from scratch to freeze it in a heterotopic space outside of time, François Bel has finally managed to capture in his iron cages and glass boxes man’s utopian dream, if only for an instant, of stopping time.