Frédéric Malette uses graphite in all its forms sticks of graphite, dry powdered graphite, and diluted graphite, rubbers, pumice, and plaster. In his drawings, the lines can be precise and soft, hatched, or diluted; the graphite has several aspects: shiny and matt, and soft and rough. In his works there is a constant struggle between softness and violence.
Frédéric Malette always strives to distort the figures; the fine facture, which is almost academic, and which has hitherto been roughened by using a rubber and scribbling, is now often distorted by tearing, concealment, and gluing. He often uses remnants of his work in the studio (drawings that have been torn and put aside). The superimposition of drawings simultaneously conceals and reveals; it plays on the opposition between fine and discarded drawings. This technique and the compositions create distance between the viewer and the subject.
The iconographic choices, which are often drawn from the history of art, and more specifically from antiquity, are an indirect way of evoking man and contemporary society. The mythological figures are like embodiments of memory; for Frédéric Malette history is recounted, transmitted, and distorted, and only legends remain. Representing them by concealing them, tearing them, or combining them is a way of appropriating and questioning them.
The tears in the material evident in certain drawings also evoke a rupture, which, even though it has its roots in the artist’s own history, primarily relates to the memory of his family history, which was marked by a colonial past and the Algerian War.
Frédéric Malette’s oeuvre is imbued with the history of art, literature, and poetry. This is complemented by images of nature, fauna, and flora—the artist’s studio is now located in the countryside. Landscapes, snakes, and injured birds find their way into his drawings, representing an imagined countryside, and his experiences here highlight all its ambivalence, poetic appeal, and harsh reality.
Human beings are always central elements in Frédéric Malette’s work, as is the relation between man and his origins, history, and to others. In his most recent drawings this quest for humanity is often represented via modest, haunted, and evasive expressions. Several months ago, during one of the artist’s previous exhibitions,* Matthieu Lelièvre observed that these expressions or absences of expression ‘imbue the models with a profound and almost philosophical melancholy’. They seem to be communicating their feelings about the contemporary world. And surely these mysterious expressions also reflect the way we perceive society, man, and a nature, which is both idealised and defiled and which lies at the heart of our contemporary preoccupations.