Point of view

Fabien Chalon's sculptures are generally described as "intimate sculptures".

They are part of the artist's reflection on the relationship between man and space-time. But also, about the consequences, both philosophical and metaphysical, of each person's perception of the lived moment.

For him, it is a matter of imagining and conceiving "event-sculptures" that are never fixed or definitive points, as in classical sculpture, but constantly in tune with the movement of the imaginary process. Fabien Chalon's sculptures highlight the idea that time is a reality focussed on the moment and suspended between two nothingnesses. How many people have said after seeing one of his works in motion: "I've come back from afar”.

Thus, Fabien Chalon has become over the years an artist of both the intimate and the instant. By placing himself at the service of the objects’ poetic transformation, he brings us to moments of disjunction, to sacred moments, to this ultimate point where reality is diluted in surprise and wonder.

Most of his works are of human size, an ideal format for an intimate dialogue with the viewer, but some of them reach monumental dimensions.

In 2008, the monumental sculpture <i>Le Monde en Marche</i> (The World on the Move) was commissioned by the French government and installed in the centre of Gare du Nord, Paris. This work has greatly contributed to Fabien Chalon's public recognition. Its’ spectacular and celestial aspect made it a landmark to the station.

In 2010, Hermès chose to partner with Fabien Chalon and commissioned a traveling exhibition that toured the world during three years.


Le monde en marche

One could see the effect of the powerful and poetic emotions generated by Fabien’s works in the eyes of the travellers as they stood before Le Monde en Marche installed right in the middle of the Gare du Nord.

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
President of SNCF
Paris, 2019 


“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, curator and art critic
Paris, 2019



Red or green? True or a lie? Does the truth lie? Does it really lie? The truth has a way of being told truly, and when it loses its way, it lies, but when one really lies, is it 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, and 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, the hero of Orson Welles in F For Fake, is really painting a fake Matisse, he is asked "When is this Matisse?" », From 1936 he answers in Ibiza in the 70s, because he knows about art history. And he proposes "Let's burn it". He's not serious. He really plays at making fakes, to show how the truth of experts signs the end of art. His sadness at least. So he takes up the brush again, and paints a "real Modigliani". But it is Orson Welles who shows and who edits the interview with the forger in a film which announces at his doorstep: "every story is almost surely a lie, but not this one!" Everything you will see in the next hour is absolutely true! " 

The XIX century train station at the start of the film refers to Fabien Chalon's installations: 

the structure is put forward, it sheds its flesh to appear and frame. It is a setting, a fence, and yet it is a station, its lines of flight are already drawn by the rails. There are also rails in the Chalon facilities. And he loves train stations, has experimented there with a living work of art - “Le monde en marche” - a technical feat that stages the disturbing strangeness of preceding or differing oneself by a few seconds. In a screen mirror, passers-by saw themselves living with a slight interval, out of sync, multiplied. One of the main reasons for the artist's work is time. But time cannot be captured, it is constantly replayed to differ in its turn from itself, it is creation and depth, but it is also mechanism. Death, life, and the path from one to the other, from the other to one.

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 are passing by and who stop and encounter one another, 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 jewellery”), Le Monde en Marche (“The world in motion”), Prends le Temps (‘Take time’), and all the other specialised haikus, the movements are 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 in the action: the miniaturisation of space, a curiosity cabinet in which the vanities interact in a tragic-comic theatrical game, which is disquieting like the 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 he creates a game.

As soon as one presses the button the theatre 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 too believe it. 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 alive, 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 it true-lie?

Whether in Les Disparus (“The disappeared”) or in Vu des étoiles (“Seen from the stars”), the faces endlessly reappear, but never in exactly £the same way; they then return to a round and melancholic “netherworld”; the machinery turns, it is inexorable, but can do little to combat 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 is to make them apparent. The grinding of the machine is a warning to us that we cannot trust it although we expect to see them again: but how can the machine be trusted? It is the opposite of the faces. Should it go unnoticed, like in the cinema, and efface itself in the very image it produces? No, quite the contrary, it asserts itself, sneers, and maintains control. It “true-lies” to “con-fess”, it does not lie; it illustrates how the dead can be summoned and tells us: yes they are dead, but they appear and that is enough for us. The struggle is interminable. Their appearance gives them a semblance of existence

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

In the stations the smoke of the trains 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 courage. What an anachronism: that old fashioned word—poetry.

Mazarine Pingeot, Philosopher 

What an anachronism to be interested in time. What courage to be anachronistic. 

By giving way to death. And thus to life. And between the two art. 

How brave. What anachronism. This word obsolete. Poetry. 

Mazarine pingeot
philosopher and writer
Paris, 2019

Where is 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 oeuvre is like a “developing bath” that reveals scattered time; it is illuminated, elevated, and lifts off; it tells us that L’aube des neiges (“dawn of the snow”) exists: and that is why we appreciate it.

Yannick Haenel
Paris, 2019