Fontenay-sous-Bois, France, 1981
Lives and works in Tours and Paris.
Fabien Mérelle is a highly talented and emerging young French artist who creates delicately detailed drawings in black ink and watercolour. A recent graduate from the Beaux-Arts academy in Paris, Mérelle received a scholarship in 2005 to attend the Beaux-Arts academy in Xi’An, China. Already passionate about the art of drawing, this trans-global opportunity permitted Mérelle to discover and perfect the use of alternative Eastern drawing techniques, such as Chinese ink. Upon his return to the West, Mérelle was granted a residence at the prestigious Casa Vélasquez in Madrid and in 2010 he was the first winner of the highly lauded Canson Prize.
Although Mérelle’s drawings appear at first sight realistic in their rendering, they in fact depict outworldly scenarios, unsettling situations and dream-like occurrences. Working on a minute scale against a sparse white background, Mérelle prompts the viewer to individually examine his figures and peer into a world, which from the outset may appear as our own, but upon closer inspection is a rendering of a personal streaming subconscious : in ‘Avant’ (2012), the still-life depiction of a coniferous tree is distorted by the slouching torso of a bearded man, the artist himself, perched atop the tree’s crown; in ‘Ile’ (2012), a man, yet again Mérelle himself, tentatively stands on the border of a perspectival slice of terrain, suggesting his proximity to an infinite abyss-like precipice; in ‘Pentateuque’ (2012), a man, cast as Mérelle, performs the impossible of balancing on his back, arms outstretched, a perched elephant.
These renderings, simultaneously absurd, humorous, ironic and cruel, weave their own tapestry of tales and legends, blurring the line between what has been written and what our memory has forged. Mérelle’s insistence on anatomical precision, an art historical tradition borrowed from great draughtsmen such as Albrecht Dürer, adds a dimension of doubt and moderate belief, as the viewer simultaneously quizzes yet recognises and understands what he sees. Mérelle thus brings our inner thoughts and mental scenarios on to the surface of a page, channelling psychological theories of great 20th century thinkers such as Pierre Janet, and providing viewers with a visual of what the depths of our minds might conjure.
Fabien Mérelle’s exquisite work has received international recognition and has been exhibited at The Armory Show in New York as well as Art Paris. Mérelle recently had a solo exhibition at Praz-Delavallade gallery in Paris and was previously part of a group show at Guy Bärtschi gallery in Geneva. His work has also appeared in various prestigious publications such as Art Actual, Beaux-Arts Magazine and Le Monde. Mérelle’s work can be found in several private and public collections, including the Daniel and Florence Guerlain contemporary art foundation in Paris.