Pierre Fouché at Bell-Roberts
by Fabian Saptouw
'The Distance Between Us' comprises a series of images that examine the tension inherent in the maintenance of intimacy over a physical, emotional and geological distance. This exhibition at Bell-Roberts Contemporary by Pierre Fouché continues a line of investigation begun at his 2005 solo 'Excluded and Unsaid'. There is a nuanced visualisation of the social restrictions placed on the homosexual body, in particular with regard to public displays of intimacy. His artwork creates various layers of distance within the work itself, between the viewer and the work, and in our understanding of the private and the public performance of masculinity. The artist engages these issues through a process of investigation, fragmentation and representation rather than through any explicit content.
In The Distance Between Us II the artist uses 6000 commercial resin dice to recreate a pixellated snapshot of a lovers' embrace. The image is created by both the numerical value of the dice surface and the 20 different tonal values of the resin. To facilitate this, Fouché divided the collection of dice into 20 separate tones and, after this was established, he spent months assembling the image. His laborious production process greatly contrasts with the momentary quality of the original photograph and its place in family photo albums. Similarly, The Distance Between Us III is a needle-point embroidery of another snapshot. In The Distance Between Us I, exactly 3000 puzzle pieces were assembled and layered with a flat colour.
To allow us to access that private process, these three larg vertically hung works are presented with enough space for the viewer to circumambulate them. In addition to allowing the viewer to see the various notations on the back of the images, each work is accompanied by a diagram from the process. These accompanying works, Unit Index I-IV, range from pencil diagrams on graph paper to index cards with colour values, palette samples and grids detailing the colour-distribution on the surface.
The transparency of each process is somewhat negated by the complexity but this could be attributed to the cautious relation between revealing and concealing evident in Fouché's work. Materials like dice, puzzles, graph paper and embroidered tapestries are familiar to the viewer, but that familiarity is undermined by the nature of his engagement. His processes interrupt our perceptual experience of these objects by capturing them in a way that does not conform to their conventional uses.
This link between clarity and confusion is echoed in The Distance Between Us I. The image is composed of 50 vertical strips of interlocked puzzle pieces encased in glass. The separate segments of colour coalesce to create a portrait of two individuals standing side by side. The image shifts in and out of focus as one alters the viewing distance. This is a playful gesture that challenges the individual to interact with the work within the space. This gesture, particularly when paired with the artist's production method, becomes like a self-reflexive evaluation of the manner in which viewers physically relate to works in a progressively mediated world. The photographic reproduction of The Distance Between Us I not only removes that playful quality, but actually nullifies tension between the negative and positive space in the image.
'The Distance Between Us' is a collection of images, each translated through an idiosyncratic production method that supplements the private significance of the snapshot. The interrelations between the presented images, their sources and the societal connotations produce a complex narrative about the artist's own experience. There exists a well-crafted tension between the work and the exhibition space as one glances from process to product in an attempt to gain access to the solitary process of the making. Fouché has engaged each object in a multi-layered manner, and this results in a very strong and cohesive body of work.
Fouché has participated in a range of group shows including the 'District Six Public Sculpture Festival' (1997), 'Softserve' (1999), 'Sex & Kultuur Queer Arts Festival' (2004), Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (2004) and 'Paper never lies' (2005). He qualified for the ABSA L'Atelier regional finals in both 2004 and 2005. He is employed as a full-time lecturer at the College of Cape Town and is currently completing his Master' Degree at the University of Stellenbosch.
Fabian Saptouw graduates this month with a BA Fine Arts from Michaelis and has been accepted for the Master's programme at the same institution
Opens: November 8
Closes: December 2
Bell-Roberts Contemporary Art Gallery
89 Bree Street, Cape Town
Tel: (021) 422 1100
Fax: (021) 423 3135
Hours: Mon - Fri 8.30am - 5.30pm, Sat 10am - 2pm