reviewed by Johan Myburg*


Back from the Cité International des Arts in Paris where Pierre Fouche lived and worked for six months as part of the Absa L’Atelier Award he won last year, his exhibition Convoulted Involvement could be read as a report of his sojourn in the French capital.

Fouché won the award with The Distance between Us III – a work in mixed media. His interest in snapshots and the reworking of snapshots became evident in this ‘unfinished tapestry’. In Convoluted Involvement he continues his use of snapshots in his exploration of aspects of ‘unfinished business’.

Some key aspects are important to take into consideration in a discussion of his work:

Fouché’s work bears testimony to his process of art making: More than merely time consuming it has always been labour intensive. ‘Labour of love’ with the added element of a meditative or even therapeutic dimention comes to mind when viewing his art.

At the same time his work evokes a sense of absense, of distance (e.g. The Distance between Us). Fouché achieves and defines the distance between himself as artist and his subject by taking on the role of the voyeur.

Fouché’s work is gendered. At one stage he remarked: ‘I like working with traditionally gender-bound material – and staking my own place in that ...’

It is as if Roland Barthes (2002:13,14) had Fouché’s work in mind when he wrote on The Absent One:

Historically, the discourse of absence is carried on by the Woman: Woman is sedentary, Man hunts, journeys; Woman is faithful (she waits), man is fickle (he sails away, he cruises). It is Woman who give shape to absence, elaborates its fiction, for she has time to do so; she weaves and she sings, the Spinning Songs express both immobility (by the hum of the Wheel) and absence (far away, rhythms of travel, sea urges, cavalcades). It follows that in any man who utters the other’s absence something feminine is declared: this man who waits and who suffers from his waiting is miraculously feminized. A man is not feminized because he is inverted but because he is in love. (Myth and utopia: the origins have belonged, the future will belong to the subjects in whom there is something feminine.)’

Fouché toils with ‘waiting’ and ‘something feminine’. Waiting not necessarily for the loved one, but perhaps more for healing after the loved one (has left). Waiting (and the labour of love) becomes a way of remembering (or re-membering the absent one) and as such a way of letting go.

Crocheting, traditionally regarded as a ‘feminine activity’, becomes in The Kiss Fouché’s medium to excorcise absense. But crocheting is also a way of ‘convoluting’ and ‘involving’ thread in such a way that new meaning could be generated. In this way the medium, process and product forms one pattern. When he knits (Aimez-moi moins, mais aimez-mois longtemps) knitting into takes on the form of the reversal, of knitting out.

The Kiss, conjuring up images of Rodin’s work of the same name, optimally embodies the convoluted inolvement of the exhibtion title. In this work Fouché returns to the snapshot, that furtive moment that has the potential to last an eternity. More than in their embrace the lovers are involved, intertwined, in cottom thread.

In Template & Progress – two complementary but at the same time opposing concepts – the process of creating The Kiss is traced in something of a topographical map, fragmented perhaps, but nonetheless an indication of ‘progress’, of finding solace in the ‘labour of love’.

While Fouché knits, writes, embroiders and crochets – all apparent means of binding, it is as if the opposite becomes decisive: to untangle, to write out – in other words: to purge, to distance oneself from absence. The work 25 Letters indicates this process of writing out: a striking means of writing off. Fouché’s engagement with the snapshot – that fleeting moment (The Dark Night) with near endless ramifications, is his way of building his own discourse of absence, and his manifestation of Barthes’ words – ‘the future will belong to the subjects in whom there is something feminine’. 

Sources cited in this article: Barthes, R. 2002 (1977). A Lover’s Discourse – Fragments. London: Vintage Classics


*   Reference for this article: Myburg, J. 2008. ‘Pierre Fouché – Convoluted Involvement’ (this version is translated by the author). Beeld, 22 September. P. 22