Reviewed by Francis Burger*

Showcasing new work made during and after a six month Cité Internationale des Arts residency in Paris, Pierre Fouché’s Convoluted Involvement exhibits the products of patient, laborious construction.

Working predominantly from photographs, Fouché uses needlepoint, knitting, crocheting, writing and embossing to translate the composition of his source image into a sculpted graphic. The effect of works like The Kiss, a crocheted image of two larger than life-size figures locked in an embrace, is of a modest monumentality – the object, suspended and backlit against the hollow white wall of the gallery, could work just as well between the mahogany and glass of a Russels’ coffee table. Favourably tempered by the presence of a few, slightly more indulgent, process generated objects (framed cotton reels in Running out and found Fuji Instax photographs in Rejected), the body of work presented in Convoluted Involvement is immaculate in its honesty.

As products of a voluntary intense practice, Fouché’s works invoke the earned contentment of a resigned commitment to process. Appearing initially as the lighter side of his mediums of choice, Convoluted Involvement, suggests a kind of tuisnywerheid work ethic rather than an obsessive neurosis, where an embroidered plaque spells out “the rules of my kitchen” and the virtues of tried and trusted methods offer up a little time to sit and think, or brood over failed relationships and lost love.

Possessed only of a quiet, graphic beauty (not garish enough for any kind of sublime justification) one of the first questions that Fouché’s work confronted me with was whether or not they were thinking. Operational on one level as a collection of texts, the embossed, inscribed or woven components performing as cryptic letters, many of the works within Convoluted Involvement, invite an attempt at reading. Yet, while the composition provides a figure or a face from a few meters back (or sideways), the sense of this is abstracted into nonsense on approach. Up close, the works refuse to perform. In the case of It’s down to you, literally composed of tiny, cursive letters, all that is apparent are scraps of lonely syntax, “you can shine…” and “it’s down to you…” wasted on the lazy eye.

The gratifying satisfaction of understanding that the works ultimately refuse (other than simply being art) is prolonged by a careful and well-considered artist’s statement. Fouché explains that many of the source images for the works on show were photographs of familiar faces or situations that had “found their way” into his albums, but that he himself was not party to. Steeped in sentiment (described by Fouché as “the voyeur’s particular form of anguish”) I found myself seduced by the image of an artist, or an illustrious housewife, facing up to a series of painful, voyeuristically imposed fantasies with a needle and thread. And yet while Fouché is careful to note that the repetitive stabbing that constructs the eventual tapestry is part of a “respectfully meditative” and “non-vindictive” process, Convoluted Involvement was certainly no jar of apricot preserves.


*   Reference for this article: Burger, F. 2008. ‘Pierre Fouché – Bell Roberts Gallery, Cape Town’. Artsouthafrica. Vol.7, issue 2. summer. P.103