Fanny Allié was born in Montpellier, South of France in 1981. She graduated from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie (The National School of Photography) in Arles, France in 2005 and moved to New York City shortly after graduating. Allié's work has a connection with the domain of the street and the ground either through the people she observes- such as can collectors and homeless people- or the objects/materials that she finds and pick ups on a daily basis.
Princeton University, DOT Art, A.I.R Gallery, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Fresh Window gallery, Chashama and St Eustache Church in Paris, France have organized solo exhibitions of Allié’s work. Freight + Volume Gallery, Field Projects, BRIC Rotunda Gallery, Dekalb Gallery/Pratt Institute and The Bronx Museum among others have featured her work in group exhibitions.
Allié’s work has appeared in the New York Times, NY Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Hyperallergic, Le Monde Diplomatique, DNA Info, Marie Claire Italy and Artspace Magazine. In April 2017, Allié installed her interactive, community-based and participatory public art sculpture Exquisite Corpse in collaboration with DOT Art and A.I.R Gallery in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
In June 2017, she was awarded the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Studio Immersion Fellowship. During February-April 2018, Princeton University (Woodrow Wilson School) is organizing a solo show of her work. Allié lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Your artwork examines the movements within transitory spaces, partially by incorporating found objects scattered around within them. Are there any locations in particular you choose to gather these materials, and if so, can you tell me why?
I almost never go to a specific place just to gather my materials; it usually happens naturally and randomly while walking on the street on a day-to-day basis. It’s almost like finding a treasure; we never know where it will be hidden. I also re-use materials that I consume daily or fabric I used to have at home or I used to wear.
Why is thread and fabric such a commonly used material within your work?
Fabric is a soft and porous material that I associate a lot with personal items, memories and with the body itself. Fabric is a second skin, which follows and wraps us throughout our life. Fabric is also very versatile; I can sew it, cut it, glue it, tear it, dye it or draw on it. The thread is the fabric of the fabric, in my work I usually use it as something that connects two entities - two structures or two figures – it’s a line, a link.
Can you explain why you often use flat planes and silhouettes to depict street life?
The use of silhouettes or outlines to depict my characters allows me not to be too representational and figurative. I want my characters to have many faces and play a part in many stories but not be attached to one in particular. Instead, I place emphasis on body positions, movements and gestures. My figures evolve in open but sub-divided spaces that I create for them; each character has its own placeholder: a pedestal, a string, sitting on the brink of a structure, flying, floating, falling, looking up or bent down.
Even though your artwork explores the motion of city life, you notably leave out aspects most people associate with a cosmopolitan setting, such as the chaotic, often suffocating, clutter of people, streets and buildings. Why do you gravitate towards sparseness and negative space?
There are certain body positions, gestures or actions, mentioned above that keep on repeating in my work. They are performed and highlighted by a handful of figures who balance each other out in the compositions I create, like on a music sheet.
Even though I mostly find my inspiration in city life because that’s where I live, I don’t exactly try to depict it, I aim to create a stage in which my characters can evolve and fit in. This stage is inspired by my own mental landscapes marked by various elements, some belonging to an urban setting. I am attracted to negative space as it shows the trace or the shadow of the positive but in a more hidden way. It suggests rather than imposes.
The subjects within your work are often people who have taken residency in public spaces, such as homeless people and can collectors. Why are they your choice of subjects?
Most of my subjects are imaginary characters, some of them inspired by individuals seen on the street. The question of the ephemeral is at the center of my work and homeless people or can collectors embody in my opinion, the frailty and transient nature of life. These figures that can sometimes be perceived as invisible are in my work transformed into ancient, mythological and public characters. They are some sorts of messengers, reminding us of the fleeting nature of the life journey we are embarked in.
One of the more unusual materials that you use within your drawings are trash bags. How did you come to start using them? Are there any properties that you feel make them a unique artistic material?
Before using trash bags I started experimenting and sewing black plastic bags. To me a black plastic bag is an object used and known by everyone, very accessible and that anyone can relate to. It’s when I started making life-size silhouettes that I had to use a larger material than plastic bag so I naturally turned to trash bags. Both plastic and trash bags give volume, shape and movements to the figure, placing it between a 2-Dimensional and 3-Dimensional object.
Your installations are very different from your other works. They’re made of neon and metal, are meant to be displayed outdoors, and are verging on monumental in scope. How do you use such different materials and surroundings, yet still find a way to capture the same themes and aesthetics?
Since my first public art installation in Greenpoint for a one-night festival in 2011 (The Glowing Homeless which is on view at Equity Gallery from April 6 - May 7), I have developed a strong liking and interest in public art, a democratic and meaningful counterpoint to my studio practice. The materials have to be meant for an outdoor setting therefore I have used steel, treated wood, nylon ropes and in some particular cases, neon light. In terms of scope, I usually stay on the human size range or sometimes slightly bigger.
One of your longest running projects is your “Street Characters” series, spanning form 2014-2018. Do you consider these fabric figures to be representational, characters within themselves, totemic, or something else entirely?
I see Street Characters as mysterious and slightly animistic little figures that were born from strangers’ lost personal garments (gloves). Each of them contains a little bit of the soul of their previous owner: a trace, a stain or a fragrance. They are not really representational of anything or anyone in particular but they all have some human features more or less abstracted. Like in the rest of my work, I have focused on gestures and body positions. Some of the gloves point at something, raise an arm, have their head down or their tits out, are lying down, on their knees or holding a stick, some are guards, astronauts or acrobats. Street Characters belong to a parallel and invisible world.
Interviewed by Gina Mischianti