KARACHI: An exhibition of artworks by author and artist J. Francois Chenin, Monument Valley, opened at T2F’s Faraar Gallery on Saturday evening.
The show is dedicated to the memory of Sabeen Mahmud, the founder of PeaceNiche and T2F. It was in September 2014 that Chenin, who is director of the Alliance Francaise Karachi, first exhibited at the same venue when Ms Mahmud was alive. This is perhaps why he has called the show Monument Valley Seasons 2 and 3.
It is evident from the artworks on display that the artist treats images as visions — or flashes of vision. There is no particular sequence to them, which leaves it to the viewer to connect the dots. But doing that is no mean feat. There are a variety of objects that he puts together to achieve a kind of syncretism. The influence of pop art and electronic devices is evident. Once you get the hang of the madness behind the method, it won’t be hard to trace the trajectory of his creative journey by looking at the untitled works of digital collage prints on canvas.
Also, Chenin’s statement makes things a bit easier to grasp. He, like all of us, hasn’t forgotten his childhood. The scenes that influence a child stay with it for a long, long time, if not for the rest of its life. These scenes can be terrifying, mirthful or undistinguished. They are important because they take place at a stage when personality development is an ongoing process, so the prominent images from those scenes become part of the child’s personality.
Chenin’s comment may further elucidate his creative process: “The childhood was a patchwork, a sequence of instant sensations, reconstituted afterwards. I’m only preoccupied with the balance and the composition.” The key word here is ‘reconstituted’. The artist wants to reconfigure what he saw in patches and as an integral part of his life to seek ‘balance’ in both art and life. Has he achieved that? Well, it’s for him to decide. For the viewer, his journey thus far that he calls Monument Valley is pretty interesting.
The exhibition will continue until April 1.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2017