Exploring hidden narratives and erasure within the practice of Nicole Franchy

Peruvian artist Nicole Franchy discusses her collage practice, and explores its power to focus and erase.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Mar 13, 2022

Nicole Franchy introduces herself as an artist who is preoccupied with locating the hidden and obscured; that which is lived in the blind spot of our mind’s eyes. She tells STIR, “I am busy with paying attention to what resides at the margins of our sight, or that which is hidden from dominant narratives. Seeing through haze, somehow.” The artist creates fascinating collage art, some of which are of a rather large scale. Franchy’s work draws in viewers to try and discern the layers of information that are presented to them. She hails from Lima, Peru, and has trained as a visual artist in her place of origin. However, she would go on to pursue a post-graduate degree at the HISK in Belgium, and would continue on to participate in several academic programmes, both as an attending artist as well as a lecturer.

Through Ashes and Haze, 2016, Collage, Inkjet print on cotton paper, Nicole Franchy| STIRworld
Through Ashes and Haze, 2016, collage, Inkjet print on cotton paper, Nicole Franchy Image: Nicole Franchy, Courtesy of the artist and Salt by the Casa Project, Galeria Impakto

Franchy had artistic inspiration all around her from a very young age. She explains saying, “I come from a family of artists in varying fields: my mother studied at SVA and is a painter, so I grew up watching art. I was attending exhibitions and consuming culture in every form I could.” She has also gathered several other influences over the span of her career. These include the late artist Jimmy Durham as well as Hans Peter Feldman. However, she looks towards thinkers with exactly as much attention as she does artists, and names such as Walter Mignolo, Mary Louise Pratt, Anibal Quijano and Bruno Latour come up in conversation with her.

Kosmos, 2020, Polyptych, Collage, Inkjet print on cotton paper, Nicole Franchy | STIRworld
Kosmos, 2020, Polyptych, Collage, Inkjet print on cotton paper, Nicole Franchy Image: Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Impakto

Franchy calls her collages, and her larger creative process Associative Landscapes, which serves to position landscape as a tool for containment and translation; one that is in constant transition. What she presents, in some senses, are mental topographies that are in perpetual flux; obscuring and revealing meanings to their audiences. She continues, discussing her creative process, “For a long time now, I have been stretching the idea of formal collage making, and I have been working within and beyond the language of figuration through archival material, depicting the man-made as well as natural worlds, which coexist in my layered works.” The contemporary artist meanders intuitively throughout her archive of ideas to find imagery that blends well together. She accentuates a sort of disorienting effect the imagery creates by treating her elements in mostly monochromatic tones. She explains, "This evens up the source materials colour-wise, so they coexist in harmony. I crop, draw from, scan, erase and keep layering the material to re-asses my elements though different processes. A whole room installation can start from tiny, re-sized collages, and it is always a mystery: where and how the work may unfold, and the direction it will head towards.” Franchy mentions that she quite enjoys witnessing a viewer be immersed within her work, and one can imagine why: knowing what she does about the visuals she crafts, it would no doubt be enjoyable to watch as moments of awareness appear across the faces of spectators, who, latching onto the meanings they build from a portion of one of Franchy’s pieces, will attempt to trace that thread as if it is a narrative in itself. And sweeter still, must be the delight at watching them realise that they have stumbled upon another of the work’s meanings entirely.

Ocaso / Sunset, 2016, Installation view, Nicole Franchy | STIRworld
Ocaso / Sunset, 2016, installation view, Nicole Franchy Image: Juan Pablo Murrugarra, Courtesy of the artist and Sala Luis Miró Quesada Garland

Franchy says, “I sometimes let the archival material sit for a while and just look at it, or I’ll keep it saved somewhere, and then I would just keep my hands going through my pieces, trying to bring them out of a certain stillness. My process involves the memorisation of the archival material. I have taught myself to learn and store every context, corner and texture so that it all comes together on my table during my creative process. It comes to me in my dreams as well sometimes. There is something quite like a sinuous and intuitive, but certain and precise path towards every piece I set out to create.” She adds, “It’s hard to explain the whole process.”

From the 'Vacío Tropical' Series, 2018, Laser cut Inkjet print on cotton paper, encyclopedic page | STIRworld
From the Vacío Tropical series, 2018, laser cut Inkjet print on cotton paper, encyclopedic page, Nicole Franchy Image: Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Impakto

The multimedia artist thinks back to her Vacio Tropical (Tropical Void) series, which she undertook in 2018. She recalls a German Ethnographical atlas called Die Gross Volker Kunde and how exploring it made her understand a critical power her work possesses. She says, “I kept looking at the images inside. All these characters were part of a highly posed scene that was woven into the landscape, as we often see in these kinds of publications. I wanted to symbolically remove them out of this depiction, so I started to draw the clothing patterns, hair pieces and everything that added to the bare characters, and that could remove the gaze from upon them.” The artist then laser-cut her hand-drawn patterns, and placed them over unlikely sceneries. She explains, "The erasure itself spoke louder than the portrayals, and that is where everything started making sense.”

Star Melt V, 2021, Collage, Inkjet print on cotton paper, Nicole Franchy | STIRworld
Star Melt V, 2021, collage, Inkjet print on cotton paper, Nicole Franchy Image: Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Impakto

Franchy’s efforts extend beyond her work. In early 2020, as nations were shutting down, the artist was busy setting up Locus-t Mag, an online contemporary art magazine that would provide an alternative space for art museums and gallery enthusiasts. As its website reads: “Locus-t Mag is an independent platform that features art and writings on contemporary art from today's practicing artists and thinkers.” The name comes from the swarms of locusts Franchy saw ruffling through South East Africa. She explains her decision saying, “I thought this is the time to keep the conversation going, and to put the artists and curators as first and front without any noise. For some time, I have been bored of the flashy art and art world as it stands, so I started Locus-t Mag as an online platform that intends to do just that: keep readers busy with concepts, ideas and processes.” Franchy runs Locus-t Mag with the magazine’s Co-founder, Virginia Inés Vergara, who is a Chilean-American artist with a photo-based studio practice. Spaces like these are fast becoming an integral part of the art world, and one hopes that Locus-t continues to thrive. Meanwhile, Franchy does not go into specifics regarding where she would like to see her work go in the near future, but mentions feeling a sense of curiosity and excitement at what’s yet to come.

ArtistNicole Franchy | STIRworld
Artist Nicole Franchy Image: Courtesy of the artist
Virtual tour of The Shape of Things, 2020-2021 Image: Courtesy of nfranchy on Instagram

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