Artist portrait: © Jonathan Greet, 2016.<strong>Sylvie Franquet</strong>, <em>Prisoner of Love</em> (detail), 2016.
Wool, acrylic and lurex on cotton canvas sewn into raw ash frame, 80 x 100 cm.<strong>Sylvie Franquet</strong>, <em>The Wayward Sisters</em> (detail), 2016..

Sylvie Franquet: reMembering

1 Dec 2016 – 28 January 2017
Sylvie Franquet, Run Ragged, 2016. Akhmim (Egypt) cotton on wood and wire frame. Body 185 cm high on a variable stand.
Sylvie Franquet, Call to a Prayer, 2012-15. Wool, acrylic and lurex on cotton canvas sewn onto raw ash, 59 x 70 cm.

October Gallery, London is excited to announce reMembering, an exhibition of new works by Sylvie Franquet. The artist’s first solo presentation will run from 1st December to 28th January. A private view will be held on 30th November. 

Sylvie Franquet is a discovery. Born in Belgium, she read Arabic and Islamic Studies at Ghent and Cairo universities. Much of her life has been spent immersed in the Mediterranean world, reading, travelling widely throughout the region, and writing extensively on Middle Eastern culture. Out of this has come the unique artistic voice in reMembering, which layers word and image, ancient myth and everyday life, in textile, tapestries, collage and embroidered cloth dolls.

Franquet reworks found tapestries, showing a preference for those based on canonical works of art. She overlays these with further images and with found words from poets and thinkers, and text messages from friends. She cites Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone da Pensiere, with its dense collation of thoughts, ephemera and philosophies, as influencing her approach. The laborious process of unpicking, repairing and reworking can take months, resulting in a metamorphosis achieved by the magic power of the needle.

Needlepoint has for centuries been seen as the domain of the female. Franquet is fascinated by this inheritance: the needlepoints she finds are based on paintings by men, who until recently had a monopoly on the visual depiction of women. Those images were then reinforced by women sewing, and are now transformed by her needle. This complex history of gendered production and reaction is a central concern of Franquet’s work: reMembering questions attitudes surrounding gender and social and creative status. An electric aesthetic reminiscent of punk imbues the stitching with the look of pixels. Franquet uses rhizomatic layering of texts and languages that, in her hands, take on the nature of rebellious graffiti and radical twitter feeds.

The Poupées (mannequins) develop this theme: Franquet sews life-size fabric sculptures,  pattern-cut from her own body and tattooed in a similar graffiti to the tapestries. These remembered/reconstructed female bodies function as repositories of memory, stories and myth. Alongside these figures hang a battalion of Wayward Sisters, small cloth dolls chattering with overstitched words of wisdom.

Sylvie Franquet read Arabic and Islamic studies at the Rijksuniversiteit, Ghent and in Cairo. She has lived in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, always producing collage and mail art. In recent years, she has extended her travels in Iran, studying its art, culture and history. She writes extensively on the Middle East, and leads tours in the region.
Franquet’s designs and amuletic accessories have been featured in many magazines, including British Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and Elle. Her art was shown at the acclaimed 2014 exhibition, More Material, curated by Duro Olowu at Salon 94 in New York. She participated in the 2015 exhibition Féminin Pluriel at Fondation Dar Bellarj in Marrakech.