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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

‘De fil en fibre’

By Andrew Mulenga
What do break dance, wire, Google Earth and paint have in common? De fil en fibre or loosely translated “Wire fibre” an exhibition by French artist Christiane Chaponnière, that is what.
A break-dancer  made of wire reduced to a just a
few elements of the body, the head, legs, and feet
Last week, Chaponnière displayed a series of paintings and miniature wire sculptures at the Alliance Francaise in Lusaka.
Walking into the exhibition space, particularly if one had not seen some of the publicity material prior to the show, the small sculptures looked like discarded, twisted old hang wires that used to belong in someone’s wardrobe and had now been strewn across some tables.
As for the paintings, at a glance they looked like non-objective, geometric abstract art, merely depicting square blobs of paint.
However, at closer examination, one discovers that the paintings were inspired by some African city plans including Lusaka. Besides every painting, was a tiny printout of a map from Google Earth, the virtual map and geographical information program originally developed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that maps the Earth from satellite imagery.
As much as Chaponnière, copies the Google maps line for line, she adds her own unique touch of colour.
Sometimes it’s the colours from my dreams, because I dream of places before I visit them. But most of the time I use the colour in relation to the character of the city, if I feel a city is warm and friendly, I use warm colours”, explained the artist last week, before she left for Cape Town to continue her tour of the continent.
Chaponnière explains her work during
her exhibition in Lusaka
She started her journey in Alexandria in Egypt, and hopes to end it in the Cape. She entered Zambia by means of the Tazara Railway line because she believes entering a country by road or rail gives one a closer experience to the realities of on ground than flying.
Nevertheless, a closer look at the ‘hang wires’ on the table during the exhibition revealed that the wires suggested the raw movement in hip-hop or break dance.
“In France I live near a place where a huge Hip-hop festival is held. Therefore, I always go there to watch the dancers. I take photos, and then draw just what I want to remember to translate the movement of the body,” said Chaponnière referring to the ‘wire dancers’ “All I do is interpreting just a few elements of the body. The head, legs, and the feet.  I try to make them very simple, just the expression of the line not all the features, no arms just the simple expression of movement.”
Her work is indeed something out of the ordinary and quite entertaining. Chaponnière graduated from the National School of Fine Arts Paris School and the Louvre in 1968. Professor sculpture in the School of Fine Arts of Algiers in the early 70s and subsequently taught at the French school in Singapore and Bangkok during the 80s. From 2000 to 2005, she carried out arts workshops with street children in Istanbul and Mexico.
When she is not globetrotting, she lives and works in Paris. 

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