Forms and distortions in Jean-Michel Fichot’s sculptures


Jean-Michel FICHOT (b.1959)’s sculptures  may be categorized into six series: “LES ENFEUS (funerary recesses, a series started in 1980) ; LE MONDE FEMME (since 1985) ; LES ALIGNEMENTS (since 1989) ; LA SÉRIE AFRIQUE (since 1989) ; LES DIVAS (since 1990) and LES ENLÈVEMENTS (since 1991).  “Les Enfeus” are groups of male heads made of different materials and aligned in different patterns, their mouths wide-open and screaming.


belong to a world of screaming, of pain and of death. Thanatos rules over this world of funerary recesses.  According to most dictionaries an “enfeu” is a funerary recess with a flat bottom created in walls of churches to accommodate graves.  In Brittany, local funerary recesses have fascinated Jean-Michel Fichot. The word “enfeu” itself probably also played a role in this fascination evoking a “feu” (fire) burning everything to ashes, “enfer” (hell) and the damned souls, and “enjeu” (stakes).
The next five groups of art work are centred on the female figure with its tensions, its distortions and its anamorphic projections.  Occasionally, this figure appears alone.  At times, female groups suddenly appear.  “Les Alignements” represent the changing faces of the Woman.  At other times, a female figure is abducted, enraptured and perhaps in love, on an animal’s back. This facet of Fichot’s work obviously belongs to a world of Eros, the forces of life, in the domain of feminine pleasure.


Each one of Jean-Michel Fichot’s sculptures (no matter what group it belongs to) is associated with tensions and with the interactions of opposing forces.  It never comes close to a plain representation of our daily world, yet it also refuses to depart too much from this world.  The pieces are not meant to be “realistic” nor “abstract”, unless they are both at once, and torn by these conflicting desires, which makes them all the more touching….

If the sculptor tends to distort, to bend, to twist and to stretch heads and bodies, he also makes sure that they remain identifiable and desirable….

Jean-Michel Fichot’s work suggests many other kinds of encounters with conflicting desires.  For instance, the roughness of the theme in “Les Enfeus”, its violence (expressed by screaming faces) lead the sculptor to work with precious materials (e.g. gold, lacquer, etc.) with odd and almost perverse refinements.


Intricate and serious distortions of perspectives occur here, those same distortions that Jurgis Baltrusaitis (1903-1988), the great art historian, studied in his research on anamorphoses and what he calls “ornamental stylistics of Romanesque sculpture”.   For instance, he shows how sculpted forms result from a logic of internal evolution through plays of transformation.  He also shows how, in the 11th and the 12th century, a human figure was oblong, rounded or made rectangular, and modified in numerous ways according to the architectural setting in which it is situated….

When studying the strange torsions Jean-Michel Fichot assigns to his female figures, some might recognise the transformations within bodies following sexual climax (and so-called mystic ecstasy). Or else, they will quote Paul Valéry’s remark about Ingres’ drawings:
“Mr. Ingres’charcoal chases grace to the point of ugliness, the spine never long enough, nor soft enough, nor the neck flexible enough with the thighs rather smooth, and with the contemplative eye being led to caress the body curves than see them”.
Jean-Michel Fichot distortions are obviously very different from those of Ingres.  Yet, in a way, they also invent new bodies and suggest new sources of pleasures to our eyes.

Gilbert Lascault, 1993