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THE ART FIVE, Issue 5, with Artist, Justine Formentelli

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

JF: 'What she didn't say’ is a four woman group show including a selection of works by Clare Dudeney, Rachel Goodison, Maddie Yuille and myself. It did shut down at the beginning of lockdown but will reopen on June 27th for two weeks, which we are very glad about! We know each other from City and Guilds of London Art School, and our mutual interest in what remains unexpressed and hidden has led us to collaborate.

All of the works in the show (weaving, paintings, sculptures and prints) are intense in colour and lure you in with beauty but have a certain uneasiness and disquiet. Although they are all related to the inner experience of being, figures are eerily absent. I am showing works on paper, painting and sculptures in wire and papier-mâché.


JF: This body of work (which was about 6 months in the making) was initially inspired by the image of an iceberg. I thought It presented the perfect format to express the inner world I have always been preoccupied by. I wanted to materialise all these intangible components that compose our inner architecture (thoughts, emotions, past experiences, memories, transference of the past etc…) and reveal our personal geology, as I like to call it. As I developed the initial series of works on paper, I also wanted to explore the zone of exchange between the main form and its background, how the external has an incidence on the internal and vice versa and that is what I developed on the larger paintings. I chose fluorescent paint because I wanted to create a glow, an internal warmth, something evoking reaching the core…

Making the sculptures was a new development. The idea was to extract the form from the flat surface and see how it would relate to the  2D works. What I did not anticipate was how much they became bodies, characters with their similarities yet distinct features. By their physical 3D presence, they become Others, the complete strangers we cross paths with or the people we sometimes think we know but who actually completely elude us. Franz West’s lumpy, geological sculptures (Parrhesia for ex) definitely informed that part of the work.


JF: My immediate response was to start a series on paper that became a kind of journaling through the first two months of the lockdown. Living with my husband and two sons, it was difficult at the beginning not to be consumed by a very domestic landscape looming with piles of laundry and  inescapable trails of renewed clutter. Longing for structure and clarity, I started the confinement series as a way of rising above these daily preoccupations and keeping my thoughts from spiralling into darkness during this time of uncertainty. By observing how we were all trying to structure our days during this confusing time, I began to think of the larger picture and reflect how, as humans, we always strive for systems, meanings and ideals, but how this often gets eroded by our various shortcomings: laziness, lack of discipline, cynicism... 

As I progressed in my visual diary, a contrast between geometric and organic shapes began to emerge. Through the weaving of these contrasting elements, my aim was to articulate an interior architecture reflecting our aspirations and incorporating our weaknesses and failings.

During the lockdown, I haven’t received any financial support but I have been selling work through The Artist Support Pledge, the great initiative set up by Matthew Burrows  (#Artistsupportpledge) and also Paper Patrons, an IG account set up by City and Guilds alumna Eleanor Watson which features small works for £50. @paperpatrons


JF: In 'Considering how things stack up', and other pieces of the 'Shifting mindscapes' series (exhibited last year in Rarefaction, a group show curated by Ione and Mann in Belgravia), I was interested in exploring perception and how our inner architecture shapes how we see the world. The colours are less intense than the very bright more recent paintings, as they relate to elements of the natural world (rocks, mountains, streams, vegetation etc.)…

The combination of shapes and gestures are meant to create an obstacle course for the eye to wander through and hopefully linger.  I was thinking of shapes as an obstructing stillness that can get in the way of progression and gestures as movement that can allow passage. At first, the large shapes were obstructing the view, so I attempted to add some depth. By doing so, the obstacles lost their obstructing dimension and became platforms that could take you to the next level.

It’s almost like the obstacles turned into spring boards.  And, it is sometimes what happens in life when you look at things in hindsight; The hardships can be harnessed to generate positive change and have the power to alter one’s  trajectory in existence, therefore informing its meaning.


JF: In 'Lost in Isolation' an online show curated by Void Collective on the themes of isolation, loss and mourning, I am showing a piece called 'Rising from a puddle on West 46th street'. It was one of the paintings exhibited at my graduation show at City and Guilds of London Art School in 2018. The collaged fragments rising out of the muddy backgrounds are an attempt at reconstruction after obliteration and dissolution. In the face of grief and loss, it expresses a need to find existential meaning and hope. Although the painting is  more fragmented than the more recent work, it carries these ideas of containment and internal manifestations that have been prevalent in my subsequent works. These recurring enclosed shapes can be seen as a stage where things are about to happen, enticing us with the promise of the possible. I also see the contained shape as a portal to an interior and private realm which has the potential to spill out and merge with the surrounding empty space.


Thank you to Justine Formentelli for participating in The Art Five, Issue 5.

Justine Formentelli (b. 1973, France) is a French artist based in London, after many years spent abroad. Formentelli mainly paints but has recently been venturing into sculptures looking to investigate the connection between the two. Justine Formentelli received an MA from City and Guilds of London Art school in 2018 and a BA illustration from SCAD in the USA in 1998.

'What she didn't say' Thames Side Studios, is reopening from June 27th to July 11th:

Formentelli is participating in a group online exhibition 'Lost in Isolation', curated by Void Collective:

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The Art Five, Issue 5, 9th June 2020, Ju
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