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Xavier Hufkens


Michel François

Michel François
Installation views

What is space? How can space be visually expressed? These are critical questions in the field of visual arts. The Belgian artist Michel François (°1956, Saint-Trond) answers them during his second exhibition at Xavier Hufkens. Although the artist works in various media including photography, video and sculpture, spatial interventions are central to his work. At Xavier Hufkens, François changes the status of space by making it at the same time expressive, appealing and relational.

The artist places a large sculpture in each room, making the reading of the space ambiguous. Mad Drawing, a three hundred-metre long plaster cast tube, fills every inch of the lofty space in dozens of curves. This sculpture expresses a transitional form located somewhere between movement and inertia, space and form. It operates not as a sculpture, but as a sign that attains meaning when it comes into confrontation with the audience and the exhibition as a whole. Also, Verre intraversable, a box made of reinforced glass, takes a rudimentary sculptural form. In contrast with the previous sculpture, the box encloses an invisible space. Because neither sculpture offers much in visual terms, they come across as both tangible and abstract. They present themselves as spatial interventions of an incomplete and temporary character. They make an appeal to the spectator and ask: “Make me whole.”

The work of Michel François also communicates on a second, relational level. His abstract forms call upon the imagination of the spectator by, for example, suggesting a human action. Golden Cage combines a golden cage with pieces of clothing. The conflict between the form and materials conjures up images of confinement and escape.

Another sculpture comprises magnetic balls hanging in a geometric structure. The sculpture suggests an uncomfortable balance, maintained by the attraction between the elements. Just like the other sculptures, it functions as an incomplete metaphor, allowing a myriad of meanings to be possible. The art of Michel François works through the construction of ideas or mental depictions implicitly present in the work. Out of the image formed by the spectator, emerges a dialogue alluding to art and human society.

The exhibition creates an expanding movement in space. At a lower, just not visible level, private and public spaces are bound together. Themes such as ecology, globalization, etc., are touched upon from a standpoint that is pedagogical, conceptual and relational. In particular, the interactivity, the way in which the spectator is encouraged to make associations, makes the exhibition very inventive and of its time. Because meanings arise as a result of interplay, interactivity and vitality are made possible.

Michel François lives and works in Brussels. Past solo exhibitions include Frac Haute-Normandie, Rouen, France; Frac Aquitaine, Bordeaux, France; Art Pace Foundation, San Antonio, Texas; De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Space Vox, Montreal, Canada; CCA Kitakyushu, Japan; Westfalischer Kunstverein, Munster, Germany; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany. François’s work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions such as the 49th Venice Biennale – where he represented Belgium together with Ann Veronica Janssen, The São Paolo Biennial XXII, Documenta IX and Sonsbeek 2008. In October 2009, Michel François will open a large solo exhibition at SMAK, Ghent, Belgium.

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Installation views