Halfway between tapestry and the plant world, Christophe Marchalot and Félicia Fortuna’s Le Bain is an unusual creation, a sort of upside-down beetle that is at the same time surreal, priceless, and poetic.
“An unexpected project that goes off the beaten path, Le Bain explores the medium of tapestry while also being inspired by and liberating itself from traditional categories to place itself in a grey area between object/craft and plastic art. Le Bain is matter and form, half natural creature, half object, as though it had come from some surrealist plant world. It is a disturbing creation, impossible to categorise, which transforms the centuries-old narrative of the Aubusson tapestries based on fantastic bestiaries into a sensitive experience.
In this way, Marchalot and Fortuna’s piece, perched on the border between the plant and animal worlds, establishes coherence with the essential aspects of Aubusson tapestry as a decorative, narrative, and immersive medium. It reminds us of and spotlights the primary materials necessary in the tapestry process, the wool for weaving and the plants for dyeing. The colour palette is inspired by the carapace of a Thai beetle, reworked here by man to echo the strange and fantastic creatures from Medieval bestiaries that populate the traditional Aubusson vegetation.
Simultaneously animal and vegetable, Le Bain is the product of associations and transpositions between tapestry arts (surreal botanical worlds, fantastic bestiaries, storytelling scenes, sensitive representations of imaginary worlds) and the artistic gamble of transforming the space-time of the bath into a contemporary curiosity cabinet on the border between sculpture and installation.
Le Bain is a doubly immersive work. It plunges the spectator into an agonising and sensual atmosphere at the same time that it invites the body to immerse itself in the water. The choice of the bathtub as an object echoes the recurring theme of water in the works of both artists and opens an as-yet unexplored gap in tapestry arts, which has, however, included needle lace bathtub skirts ever since the 18th century. The epitome of the decorative arts, tapestry is usually displayed in living rooms. Here it steps out of its traditional setting and into a domain where it has not been seen before. A sensually evocative object, this bathtub opens a door to intimacy, a far cry from the chivalrous epics which were the source of inspiration for many Aubusson draperies.
The work brings to light the ambivalent relationship that man has always had and still has with water. Le Bain emphasises the preciousness of water as a source of life, an issue at the heart of the environmental and strategic questions of the 21st century. But it also reveals the dangerous aspect of this liquid which is necessary for the survival and cleanliness of humanity. The piece reminds us that in Medieval times, the onset of a plague epidemic led to the closing of public baths. With their undeniable reference to HIV, the points around the bathtub add a contemporary context to this anguish.
The bathtub was made by the Fonderie Fusion in Puy-de-Dôme. The tapestry cover weaving was carried out by the Atelier François Vernaudon in Nouzerines, in Creuse.” Bruno Ythier
Christophe MARCHALOT and Félicia FORTUNA
Christophe Marchalot trained as an architect. His work began in the 1990s with the design and production of contemporary furniture, during which time he met Pierre Staudenmeyer who was displaying his work at the Galerie Néotu in Paris. He then went on to participate in the L’art du mobilier français 1985–1995 exhibition, and in 1997 obtained a research grant from FIACRE’s design department at the Lentre National des Arts Plastiques.
He simultaneously continued his architect’s career with large-scale projects for the firms of Massimiliano Fuksas and Marc Barani.
Wishing to develop his passion for gardens and landscaping, he enrolled in the “Landscape Development” course at the Conservatoire International de Parcs et Jardins in Chaumont-sur-Loire. Shortly after, he joined the firm of landscape artist Michel Desvignes. Chambre intérieure (2005) and Cheveux d’ange (2010) were chosen for the Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival. Marchalot also worked with the cooperative “Super Sans Plomb” in 2016 to produce to garden-installations: Le champ des possibles for the 2016 Festival in Chaumont-sur-Loire, rebuilt in 2017 at Suncheon Bay National Garden in South Korea, and Mont des possibles for the Annecy Paysages festival in 2018. His projects all display a common “pictorial” research, the conception of a unique, minutely elaborated and supervised vision, based on visuals that he develops in advance, in order to blend the virtual into tangible reality. As a part of this balancing act, the production of the piece acts as an obsessive rite of passage between the initial image and its final form.
Marchalot started collaborating with Félicia Fortuna in 2010. By taking live photographs of moving scenes from the plastic artist’s La mémoire rêve beaucoup, he experimented with a reversal of the process. Their Le Bain project became a part of the contemporary creation collection of the Cité International de la Tapisserie in Aubusson in 2020. As the first work in their Trilogie 79, an innovative investigation into weaving as sculptable matter, focusing on the theme of water and the troubling contemporary issues surrounding it, the artists’ work-in-progress Ressac develops a countdown from digital to analogue, using photography to reveal the invisible.
Félicia Fortuna’s artistic career began with a four-year apprenticeship working with small theatres in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria, where she alternated a first experience in set design with one in costume design and staging.
After arriving in Paris, she studied at the Sorbonne Institut d’Etudes Théatrales. Her research turned towards the relationships and influences between theatre, opera, and cinema explored via the issue of representing the invisible. She participated in several workshops and served as an assistant stage director.
Starting in 2010, she dedicated her work to the development of a personal universe by writing microfiction “episodes”, creating a world of memorised inner images that she then incarnated in installations (“reliquary” objects, found objects, repurposed or duplicated objects…), in which she often places herself on the scene in a satirical costume or nude. This investigation into memory is fed by her own professional experience as an artist’s model.
She began her collaboration with Christophe Marcholot with him following each performance scene and taking live photographs. This project, entitled La mémoire rêve beaucoup, is still evolving. It will lead up to a series of installations (with photography, object-sculpture, and text), of which the first episode will be called Sirène Killer.
The artists’ multiple shared projects update the porous boundaries between gesture and media, representing a freedom of dialogue that is enriched by their differing careers and experiences.