by Alexandra Mas
As I stepped into the Cielo Gallery on Bond Street on that warm day, overwhelming emotions enveloped me. It had been five long years since my last art show, and the anticipation was palpable. The space, long and shimmering, already housed my works, neatly packaged by the entrance. However, it was Francois’ photographs, displayed on the floor just as they were taken down, that seized my attention. The young Finnish curator was thrilled to feature two French artists in her summer program, and the poetic flow of our works proved to be a perfect match.
Years later, I encountered Francois Pohu Lefevre in his Parisian space while seeking inspiration for a photography series for an Italian magazine. His detritus dialectics immediately resonated with me, offering a unique perspective on the world around us. This encounter sparked the idea to create a series of photographs featuring ready-to-wear items alongside his images, celebrating what we often choose to overlook. It was akin to crafting a time-lapse where the new season’s items were juxtaposed with their future—a poignant commentary on the ephemeral nature of our consumer culture.
As Francois once told us, “People often talk about the purity of the sky, the beauty of the clouds, but to me, all of that only makes sense if I can find such beauty on earth. And when I say earth, I also mean the lowest parts of it, which is to say, the gutter and the rubbish that can be found there.” Through his works, Francois seeks to bring out the intrinsic beauty possessed by non-objects and waste that our market-driven societies relegate to the very bottom of their value scale.
In an interview with Frédéric-Charles Baitinger in 2013, Francois shared his deep-seated belief that beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places, and it is up to us, as artists, to seek it out. We have the power to change our perspectives and reveal the beauty in the overlooked and discarded elements of our world.
Baudelaire compared the modern artist to a ragpicker finding happiness in the trash cans of the big city, a metaphor that François Pohu Lefevre applies literally: cigarette butts, litter, used condoms, everything is good to feed his project. Only one condition is self-imposed: that these objects fit in the palm of his hand. From there, his process of rehabilitation of these humiliated materials can begin. Although he never corrects the form or the material, he photographs them as others would with silver jewelry on film, as well as the background on which they will appear. He then scans the negatives in high definition and retouches them on his screen, which allows for enlargements that will result in real paintings.
What brought us together was our mutual interest in the vast and undesirable topic of waste. Although our interpretations differed, we found appreciation and wonder in our divergent viewpoints. Francois graciously opened his archives for me, revealing the real protagonists of his art: a carefully protected and dated library of urban detritus. These were the ugliest and dirtiest elements of the city, now captured in unexpected moments of glory in front of his camera.
Francois’ work is striking and unique, with titles simply represented by dates, leaving interpretation open to the viewer. Frédéric-Charles Baitinger aptly compares his work to the Rorschach test, where the viewer’s interpretation reveals much about themselves. The dramatic compositions are macros of garbage that we’ve all walked over hundreds of times without noticing, now imbued with a poetry and personality that cannot be ignored. As Baitinger notes, we must look beyond our biases and preconceived notions and embrace the beauty in the abject. Francois’ work is a testament to this, and may it continue to inspire us to see the world in a different light.
His art is part of the Artivist curation
future presence during Art Miami Fairs, Aqua Art from December 6 to December 10 2023
HOHENTHAL UND BERGEN & SHIM Art Network