The work of Fance Franck

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Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, 1975 © Jean Vertut and Valérie Winckler.

Like a boat whose very existence depends upon the emptiness which creates the shape in which the sea welcomes her, the vase is the “proper dilatation of its interior space”, the “perfect development of its hollow”, its “breathing mode”, which fix its limits and produce the truth of its being welcome into the light. Fance Franck

Being the pupil of Francine Del Pierre, Fance Franck adopted her technique. The basis of her work was therefore modeling: pieces were modeled from clay coils, clay rolls which were flattened by the artist and pre-formed one by one before being added to the wall in progress. Thanks to the initial drawings and the preliminary studies, this technique gave the piece its exact curve and volume. Like Francine Del Pierre, Fance Franck worked on the evolution of forms. She instinctively used over and over again lines she reworked and explored in different ways, depending on the material quality: terracotta and also, starting in 1966, stoneware or porcelain thanks to a gas kiln which she had acquired. Rather than fixed, perfect and rigid forms, what moved Fance Franck was the renewal offered by the multiple variations of a given form. Hence, two pieces were never identical, as they were constantly modified by tiny deviations and progressive alterations which the eye later enjoyed retracing.

After the exploration of forms comes the choice of covering and the layout of decoration. Here again, Fance Franck took up Francine Del Pierre’s researches and extended them according to the same idea: working on surfaces is an essential complement to the creation of forms. Therefore, the infinite variations of color, brightness and vividness of glazing– the way it fits reliefs and hollows – all this makes the form burst into the light. As to the choice of design, it “gives a meaning” to the piece. It can bring a form to a harmonious stillness and stability or, on the contrary, “open up the wall dynamic”, like the design of the running horses. To Fance Franck, as to Francine Del Pierre, the aim was to underline the three-dimensional aspect of the piece. A similar design repeated on different places structures the pieces differently, depending on the way it is laid out on to the form. The designs, as well as the various treatments of surfaces, contribute to create the form, to give it one out of its many possible lives. To Fance Franck, they justified the fact that in pottery one comes back to a same form, used over and over again in order to try to discover the variety of lives which it contains.
When she started working with the Manufacture de Sèvres in 1968, Fance Franck deepened this reflection. At the Manufacture, the aim was to produce and reproduce a similar form in many copies. This went against her wish to create a unique piece each time. Yet the collaboration with the Manufacture turned out to be very fruitful. Contrary to other artists, painters, sculptors or engravers who gave a model from which the technicians of the Manufacture later produced a finished work, Fance Franck took part in the entire process of creation: drawings, setting and realization of terracotta models, decorations, enameling and firing. She managed to motivate the team of technicians who participated with enthusiasm in the creation of her works of art.

The Red Work

One consequence of this collaborative work was the accidental discovery of the “fresh red” of the Ming imperial court. Starting in 1969, she did experiments with red copper glazings on hard porcelain pieces. It was in 1972 that, based on those first results, John Alexander Pope and Margaret Medley, curator of the Percival David Foundation of London, found a strong resemblance with the Ming pieces... although Fance Franck had never intended to reproduce them. She was very puzzled by the fact that those experiments at Sèvres had given such a variety of reds, from red to brown, as well as pink. Therefore, she took her experiments to London to compare them to the Chinese pieces of the Percival Foundation, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Between 1972 and 1979, she continued her researches. She realized, and the archeological discoveries at Jingdezhen confirmed her hypothesis, that one of the secrets of the Chinese “fresh red” came from the use of a small kiln, similar to the one she had installed in her studio, where the atmosphere is more homogeneous and easier to control. From a mere coincidence, Fance Franck’s curiosity, precision and persistence have made possible a rebirth of the “fresh red” glazing which originated in China in the 15th century.

Ceramics respond to the artist’s longing (her own word) to express her sensitivity to the world, precisely because the artist can feel and express her emotions and make them tangible. To the creator as well as to the spectator, the artist gives the feeling of being in the presence of what fully makes us be.

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