O P P O S I T I O N S – results from our era and the legacies of history – form an important basis for my artistic reflection and are the driving force behind my creations.
- The fragility of Limoges porcelain versus the ultra-resistant materials of 21st century buildings.
- The softness to the touch [biscuit] versus the ruggedness of megacities.
- The slenderness of my microstructures [2.5 to 32 cm] versus the eternally dissatisfied gigantism of contemporary skyscrapers.
- The light cavities in my modules versus mechanical perfection.
- The elegance of the shades of white versus the darkening of our towns.
- The perfectly straight line no longer exists for me; it is all nothing more than friction.
I seek the human and organic aspect – and translate it, by way of each of my microporcelains, through an unstable balance tinged with a life force. Tensions develop. There is the energy which is specific to each of the sculptures. There is also the spatial organisation of the sculptures and the invisible links created when they are gathered.
The repetition of the gesture, as a well-known artistic procedure (e.g. Peter Dreher, Niele Toroni, Aurélie Nemours, Ad Reinhardt…), means I have more in common with the artisan than with the “Mechanised Man”. The repetition means that the little crevices required for the uniqueness and humanity of the sculptures paradoxically become possible. Each microstructure is designed, modeled, sculpted and fashioned individually. The result is both unique and serial.
The infinitely small has always been a source of fascination for me. The study of the scientific imagery of over-sized titanium, silver and phosphate crystals, and crystallography was an awakening, a questioning. This carries even greater resonance given my familiarity with this capacity for microscopic observation: myopia has meant I can scrutinise the almost invisible.
The structural organisation of the crystals is the miniature echo of the megacities that you find in the sky, a vision that is just as fascinating to me. The paradoxical idea of the gigantic minuscule and the minuscule gigantic is at the origin of my project and my Crystal Cities.
I am interested in a dystopian and elegant vision of the city. As a reflection of a bygone utopia, and henceforth, without illusion. Walking the streets of Tokyo, New York, Shanghai or Hong Kong, etc. has enabled me to appreciate the most advanced architectural projects (supertall), while at the same time questioning the place of society in this hyper-urbanisation. In 2030, 70% of the global population will be urbanised. The outcome of this research will be the implementation of this exploration in my oppositions.
My current project is a micro/giga/megacity made up of 1 000 microporcelain sculptures.
F A C E T S
A small scale urban archipelago.
Buildings closely packed together, as though they were trying to protect one another from the outside world.
No streets to cross. No traffic. No windows.
No doors. No façades. Just walls, partitions.
Facets. Just like those of the precious stones that Franck Sarfati’s mother collected and that, as a child, he observed for hours on end. Their crystals were transparent. Colourful. Solid. Whereas the items presented here, scattered fragments of a synthesised, geometrised city, with its futuristic allures, are opaque, and white.
Fragile too. Like kaolin, a word derived from the Chinese, Gaoling, which means – strange coincidence – high hills. This crumbly clay, an essential component of porcelain, was used to sculpt these skyscrapers which are no more than ten centimetres in height, and could be held in the palm of your hand.
In contrast, those of today’s great metropolises, in innovative and ultra-resistant materials, are almost one kilometre high.
They symbolise power, wealth, perfection, infallibility.
Not without humour, the artist reduces their height without putting them down, or belittling them.
On the contrary.
His edifices, leaning slightly, somewhat crooked, a tiny bit askew, never straight, almost look shy, and arouse feelings close to benevolence in anyone who cares to take a closer look.
Just like the sculptor Henri Laurens and his cubist nudes, or Casimir Malevitch and his “architectons”, the relationship is clear, Sarfati is looking neither to describe nor to imitate.
Mad about architecture, he walks around big cities for weeks on end, just to immerse himself in them. And takes what he needs to express what he’s feeling.
Going to the heart of the matter, to what really matters. To the blueprint.
That’s why he concentrates on white, following the example of Malevitch for whom this non-colour, this “liberated nothing”, represented the infinite.
But we should speak rather of the (?) whites: once again, appearances can be deceptive. From far off, one could be forgiven for thinking it’s one and the same uniform white.
From close up, numerous subtle variations become apparent.
A little like the grey of the limestone rocks in the forest of Shilin, located in the province of Yunnan, in China, where porcelain originates, and which, with its stones which can measure up to 30 metres in height, looks strangely like a city. Which explains why the artist absolutely had to go and see it.
Each micro-building of these Kaolin Cities pourquoi pas Cities of Kaolin ? has been modelled, sanded, fired at temperatures of up to 1200°, then polished. Then, Sarfati applied a coating to them to obtain their final texture.
Be it enamel or crackled glaze, the feel, very different from one piece to the other, is always very soft and silky. The smoothness obtained when he leaves one of them matt in “biscuit” form is unique in this respect.
It’s as if the (human) warmth which reigns within is trying to get out.
To “warm up” the world, perhaps.
Our world, in which we all live, but also Sarfati’s world: as a graphic designer, he spends his days in front of the soulless screens of his computers.
Maybe it’s to escape this pixelated universe that for several years now he has been working this natural, sensual and several-thousand-year-old raw material that is white clay…
The artist blurs the boundaries: the past, the present and the future are as one and nature slips into modernity. Franck Sarfati the citizen pays homage to it in his own special way.
A S H O R T S T O R Y
It was at a time when our behaviour was constantly subjected to major endeavours to attain greatness. Greatness in every domain.
We didn’t have much faith in the magic of the world and so we disguised this fear with excessive pride. We knew, however, that we needed some magical solution to escape this immoderation.
But as that seemed absurd, no one or almost no one dared to go there.
There was, nonetheless, this ordinary man who said: I sometimes hear friendly voices in this immense ocean.
And amongst these voices, this question stuck with him: Isn’t the world too small for so much pride?
Yes, the ordinary man murmured, only a few bits of us will touch a few bits of others…
So he started to create another world, much smaller, very small even, that was meticulous and full of affection and refuges. With precious materials, polished and assembled in a very subtle way.
And he hummed this other expression from Paul Klee: Genius is the error of the system.