As Guillaume Apollinaire said: “It is high time to rekindle the stars. »

“MERCI”, Fabien Chalon’s second solo exhibition at the Olivier Waltman gallery, offers to re-enchant our desires by turning to our essentials; towards what can never be stolen from us: the wind, the water, the earth, the sky, time, the horizon, or the art of imagination.
We are beings with fragile humanism and art obviously remains the gentlest way to walk the path of our lives together.

This new set of neon lights and mechanical installations presented at the gallery from January 27, 2024 is like the school painting entitled We have the same sky. The journey of the works brings together some of our experiences in which we find our childhood, dance, dreams, silence or hope.
The works of Fabien Chalon are part of a process of reflection on the relationship of man to space and the consequences, both philosophical and metaphysical, of each person's perception of the moment experienced.
Described as “sculptures-events”, the artist's neon lights and installations are constantly in touch with the movement and aim to stimulate the imagination of the
The word THANK YOU chosen for the title of this exhibition is also the most human word in our vocabulary: it is often a powerful way of admitting with humility our powerlessness to say in the face of the immensity of beauty. Pronouncing it or thinking it is also revealing our power to access mysterious feelings which, by their magnitude, always appear to us as hidden mysteries of our reality.
The works of Fabien Chalon serve the poetic diversion of the object. Artist of the intimate and of the moment, they bring us to moments of disjunction, to sacred moments, to this ultimate point where reality is diluted in surprise and wonder.

Olivier Waltman
Paris, December 2023


Le monde en marche

The eyes of travelers ahead The World on the Move in the middle of the Gare du Nord said it: a strong and poetic emotion emanates from the works of Fabien.

The world of train travel has always been associated with art in many different ways. The Impressionists often represented it, Dali created posters that highlighted destinations, as many others had done before him, Arman stacked watches and suitcases, Roger Tallon brought his genius to design, and there have been many others. But Fabien has added another dimension, that of time, which he has suspended.

He knows exactly how to surprise the viewer with the unexpected and constant renewal in his works. Fabien’s machines are always fascinating to behold: the sense of emotion is always present, but it changes with passing time. One inevitably thinks of movement, displacement, and passing landscapes. This dynamic conception creates an immediate connection with the world of trains, the machines that travel along the tracks and the stations for the passengers.

I felt it one day when I went to his studio, which irresistibly reminds one of a railway, technical place, far from what one supposes to be an artist's studio. The magic appeared through these "small" machines, carried by a mastered technique. The idea then came to allow as many people as possible to live such an experience. She imposed herself. What better opportunity than a train station? The technical bet of a radical change of scale was far from obvious: Fabien was able to work in one of our huge halls to develop and mount the sculpture.

The technical challenge of a radical change of scale was far from evident: Fabien was able to work in one of our huge hangars, where he designed and assembled the sculpture.

Hence, it was in the middle of Europe’s largest railway station, with its incessant and constantly renewed flow of passengers, that “Le Monde (se mit) en Marche” (“The world (set) in motion”) was installed. It is a popular work in the best sense of the term, as it enables everyone travellers and users—to experience a poetic moment of great intensity. The Sncf is proud to have made this possible.

It was also necessary to make space for the work within the station and for any future developments. Everyone will long remember the sphere, lights, white smoke, music, and wings elevated by one man’s magic. Thanks Fabien!

Guillaume Pepy
Président de SNCF
Paris, 2019

Aiming for the moon

“Creation is a permanent machine and the art of the XNUMXth century echoed it. If machine and technology belong first to the world of utility, their appearance in the artistic field blurs this approach, what indeed is a machine that is useless? Its role in this case is indeed to disturb, it presents itself as subversive. The art machine is an oxymoron that raises the question of the process of creation in its relationship with that of production, and more specifically industrial production. A machine, in principle, does not create; it can only produce. This raises the question of the opposition between beauty and utility. From the biomechanically shaped canvases of certain cubist or futurist painters to Marcel Duchamp's celibate machines, from Tinguely's metamachines to Wim Delvoye's Cloaca digestive machines, the work-machine presents itself as an autonomous device. The machines developed by the artists become unproductive devices, with a playful or critical or even dreamlike connotation, improbable, impossible, incomprehensible but inventive mechanics. It is moreover their uselessness that participates in the project of subversion that is art.

Playing with conventions, the artist intervenes where we least expect him. It interferes with the cogs, makes them creak. It is an obstacle to going around in circles, a free electron, even a counter-power. If the artist's mission is to play the role of the grain of sand that disrupts the gears of our habits, we must expect him to shake us up, that what he gives us to see, read or hear surprise, that something is happening. Fabien Chalon belongs to this family of artist engineers and inventors and his machines represent the transformation of the world, they put the mind into action. They transport us to other dimensions, spatial, sensory and spiritual. They allow us to reach the moon. »

Isabelle de Maison Rouge
Historian, exhibition curator and art critic
Paris, 2019

Instant ascension

Sometimes scientific discoveries act as a source of inspiration for artists. It also happens that this influence is reciprocal.
Plays of mirrors, resonances, winks, underground organize a sort of dialectic between these two polarities of the human spirit that are science and art.

It must be said, by way of a possible explanation, that the work of scientists and artists originates from the same source, which is the human condition with its creative impulses. Does that imply that they try to attain the same objectives ? It would be naively nostalgic to believe that? But, it is precisely because science and art have distinct ambitions that it is interesting to examine the relation between them.

As far as I am concerned, I like to interpret Fabien Chalon’s works as sorts of figurative transpositions of the “thoughts experiments” conducted by physicists. Like them, he is trying to find a viewpoint that sheds light on situations and concepts, for example, by provoking astonishment. Remember that Einstein, at the age of sixteen, imagined himself straddling an electromagnetic wave and wondering how light would appear in this case. Hence, in this case as in others, thought immediately undergoes a sort of ascension. Thought is elevated and becomes interrogative.

This is exactly what Fabien Chalon’s work invites us to do: keep empirical reality at bay and prolong it, by elevating it to a sort of elsewhere that illuminates it.

Étienne Klein
Paris, 2019


Red or green? True or a lie? Does the truth lie? Does it really lies? The truth has a way of being told truly, and when it loses its way, it lies, but when one really lies, it is because one takes lies very seriously? And how can a lie be serious when it diverges from the truth, and when it denies reality? Unless one believes it, believing it means accepting it as true. Does this apply to art? True in red, lie in green, lie in red, true in green, but never together, a caesura, with a play on words.

While Elmyr, Orson Welles’s hero in F for Fake, is really painting a fake Matisse, he is asked “When was this Matisse painted?” “In XNUMX”, he replies in Ibiza in the ‘XNUMXs because he knows his art history. And he says: “Let’s burn it”. He is not being serious. He truly creates forgeries, to underscore the extent to which the experts’ truth has signalled the end of art, or as least its sad decline. So, he picks up his paintbrush and paints a “real Modigliani”. But it was Orson Welles who showed and directed the interview of the forger in the film that declared at the beginning: “Almost any story is almost certainly some kind of lie. But not this time […] during the next hour everything you hear from us is really true and based on solid facts.”

The nineteenth-century railway station seen at the beginning of the film is evoked by Fabien Chalon’s installations: the structure is highlighted and is a stripped of its “flesh”, becoming apparent and framing the action. It is like a set, an enclosed space, and yet it is a station, and its vanishing lines are installations; he loves railway stations, and has even installed a living art work in one, entitled Le Monde en Marche (“The world in motion”) – a technical out of sync with oneself for a few seconds. In a screen with a mirror, the passers-by can observe themselves – desynchronized, and reflected many times – with a slight delay. One of the sculptor’s main motifs is time. But time cannot be captured, it is endlessly re-enacted and different each time; it is connected with creation and has depth, but it is also a mechanism. Death, life, and the path from one to the other, and vice versa.

The blueprint and technique create the form, and the ensemble is structured by the framework, for the metal devices are there to create the ephemeral: people who disappear, vague faces that are iridescent and undefined on the water’s surface. In the mechanisms of Passage, Vent (Wind), Elle est Partie sans ses bijoux (She left without her jewelry), Le Monde en Marche (The world in motion), Prends le Temps (Take time), and all the other specialized haikus, the movements of endlessly repeated. Yet there is always something new, an event borne of repetition.

Because the wind, the mist, chance, and the elements that are enclosed but which remain untamed participate to the action: the miniaturization of space, a curiosity cabinet in which the vanities interact in a tragic-comic theatrical game, which is disquieting like clock and its tick-tock that gives rhythm to the dance and whispers memento mori. Chance, necessity, apparent structure, and the infinite fragility of the events that follow without repeating themselves, repetition, and difference. A gulf, in which time is stripped down and then returns like a small, cyclical, and sudden music that reveals the fissure, the black hole, the origin and the end – all this is the focus of Fabien Chalon’s work. As a true liar or lying truly, he never cheats but creates a game.

As soon as one presses the button the theater of time is set in motion; it can be stopped when one starts to feel dizzy, the artist gives us this choice. Whose choice ? The choice of the viewers, the subjects of the true-lie, who believe they are all powerful with the excuse… the excuse of a mechanism. The poor viewers; they believe it too. Because what is set in motion is a chaotic time even though it is measured, a violent deregulated time, and it snows and it rains and it drizzles, and suddenly there’s nothing left, just death. The rest is not very aliuve, the rest is amused by the living, by re-enacting what regulates and contradicts it. Via mechanisms and memory, sudden melancholy strikes like lightening. But that is not life. So what is true-lie ?

Whether in Les Disparus (The lost ones) or in Vu des étoiles (Seen from the stars), the faces endlessly reappear but never in the exact same way; they return to a round and melancholic “netherworld”; the machinery turns, it is inexorable, but can do little to fight with the ephemeral. These faces appear, with stubbornness and sadness, and evoke oblivion. They rise up from oblivion and return to it, and when they appear they reveal oblivion. For the absent and invisible have their way of being; the sculptor’s role os to make them apparent. The grinding of the machine is a warning to us that we cannot trust it although we expect to see the again: but how the machine can be trusted ? It is the opposite of the faces. Should it go unnoticed, like in the cinema, and erase itself in the very image it produces? Its “true-lies” to “con-fess”, it does not lie; it illustrates how the death can be summoned and tells us: yes, they are dead but they appear and that is enough for us. The struggle is endless. Their appearance gives them a semblance of existence.

There are graves and errant faces, Christs and wounds, imageless memories of millions of bodies consumed by flames, which haunt Chalon’s mists.

In the station trains smoke signalled the departures by hiding them.

They obscured space while promising time.

What an anachronism it is to focus on time.

It takes great courage to be anachronistic, by making way for death. And consequently life. And between the two, lies art.

What an anachronism : that old-fashioned word – poetry.

Mazarine pingeot
philosopher and writer
Paris, 2019

Where does the light go ?

“In Fabien Chalon’s studio there is a neon light whose tubes form—over a blue ground—a series of letters that undulate over a carpet of gold-tipped dead leaves; these letters make up a small phrase, followed by a question mark: “Où est-tu?” (“Where are you?”). The same question is uttered quite spontaneously over many a phone; it can be heard in the streets, the underground, everywhere; and quite naturally, Fabien Chalon’s neon light evokes—perhaps with some derision (as well as tragic gravity)—the simplicity of something that constitutes our humanity: a simple call.*

This phrase resonates with the words of the Creator in Genesis, when God addresses Adam thus: “Where are you?” He says this to him as he expels him from the Garden of Eden. “Where are you?” meaning: do you still have a place in the domain of truth? Do you exist essentially?

The extraordinary melancholic suspension that we feel when viewing Fabien Chalon’s inventions—whether the neon lights that disrupt our solitude or the small theatre-machines that “repair” our memories—underlines the infinite nature of our exile, as well as the sheer immensity of human desires.

Fabien Chalon’s art always has a sense of destiny: the great melancholy that animates these poetic machines arises from fear, which is related less to death than the disruption of transmission. How can one’s dreams be conveyed? That is his focus and his passion, explored with patience. The answer lies undoubtedly in love.”

I read somewhere in the Talmud that the accomplishment of a person’s life lies in completing three tasks: marriage, building a house, and writing a book. It is possible to replace ‘writing a book’ by ‘creating a work’ (in the mystical sense, it amounts to the same thing); hence, it is possible to see the extent to which Fabien Chalon’s art is indeed an accomplishment—a way of committing his life to following the right path: doing things correctly is the animus of those concerned, that is to say artists.

In my eyes, his works are little temples where the essential is played out: the memory of a melody, the survival of a face, the memory of a dream. And even more madly, it is the very substance of our lives that Fabien Chalon tries to bring back to life, for the time of a refrain, like in those music boxes that enchanted our childhood. 

Fabien Chalon is an inventor—a twenty-first century alchemist. How can one summon the spark of matter, how can one give life to elements—fire and water—that seem so contradictory? This is the aim behind his art. As an eternal child and artisan poet, Fabien Chalon creates opposition between enchantment and oblivion: magic always combats death and it affirms the victory of melody.

Indeed, where are you ? each of his works questions the viewer, as soon as one presses the button that sets the ‘ceremony’ in motion: is it in this ocean liner that cuts through the ocean waves, where one can hear the immemorial torn asunder? Is it in the fragility of this dancer with her covered eyes who, as she revolves, re-enacts the opus magnum of alchemy and transforms matter into spirit? Is it this murmur, these stars, this trembling hand that stirs the water? Or this woman’s face that appears, disappears, and reflects the substance of our secrets like a mirror? Is it in these spheres, clocks, propellers, and circuits, where smoke adds depth to time, then disperses it?

Fabien Chalon’s art always has a sense of destiny: the great melancholy that animates these poetic machines arises from fear, which is related less to death than the disruption of transmission. How can one’s dreams be conveyed? That is his focus and his passion, explored with patience. The answer lies undoubtedly in love.”

Yannick Haenel
Paris, 2019