François Monchâtre

Born in 1928 in Coulonges sur l’Authize, Deux-Sèvres, lives and works in France

Monchâtre, August 2001

François Monchâtre was born in the Deux-Sèvres region of France on August 5, 1928. His parents later enrolled him at the local school, which he diligently attended when not hypnotized by the “sublime beauty” of the agricultural machinery that ground up “nature” or slashed down deep into the soil.

His pursued his studies commendably in secondary school and, for homework, instead of repeating “indisputable truths” over and over again, François Monchâtre and his friends tried to build machines that would whirl around in all directions out of various odds and ends. By some sort of inexplicable miracle, they succeeded. At seventeen, he attended classes at the École des Métiers d’Art, Paris and, after graduation, worked, in turn, as a stained-glass ar tist, puppeteer, elevator operator at the Paramount cinema, art teacher in Bressuire and illustrator of Rabelais for a regional publisher, to name just a few of his short-term occupations.

One day in the Parisian subway, Monchâtre came across a man dressed in a carefully buttoned and belted raincoat, wearing a hat and carrying an attaché case. He found him so representative of our society that he decided to draw him.

His cult character – the Moron – was born.Then, in the image of his creation, he created a wife for him. They got married and had lots of children and adventures, especially in black and white. The rare episodes in color are somewhat surprising: Monchâtre is color blind!

Drawings, paintings and sculptures built up his oeuvre. From an early age, Monchâtre had been attracted to machines which he guilelessly found poetic. The day that reality proved otherwise, he decided to build them himself and rectify this error of judgment.

His machines are non-productive. At any rate, they produce nothing tangible.The ingen- ious mechanisms in wire and natural or painted wood, most frequently in black and white, are composed of cogwheels, pistons, bits of string and driving belts, all of which move up and down, and to and fro, at an infernal pace thanks to the magic of electricity. Other pieces can be set in motion with an energetic turn of the hand crank.

Monchâtre’s constructions reveal a playful, comical universe, in which derisive, sassy char- acters cavort and dash about, perfect reflec- tions of images inherited from popular art and the contemporary world. Monchâtre casts a piercing gaze, full of irony, at today’s society. Like a satirical cartoonist, he sketches it, adding volume and movement.

Full of freshness and obviously modern, the work of this rare breed of artist makes Monchâtre one of the finest exponents of outsider art, that isle of humanity in today’s art world.

From 1963 to 1976, he was part of the Galerie Iris Clert’s team, which, at the time, included Klein, Arman, the superb Tinguely, and the great César.

In 1980, François Monchâtre joined Alain Bourbonnais’s group at the Galerie Jacob, which flew in the face of fashionable artistic trends and defended outsider art, primitive art, and art outside the boundaries of official culture.

A few years later, Monchâtre joined the “Cité de la Création Franche” group in Bègles (Aquitaine, France). The effervescent Luis Marcel involved him in all his adventures.The Galerie Richard Treger then became his Parisian stamping ground.

Antonio Saint Silvestre Galerie Richard Treger éditions

An Uncertain Journey – Paris, May 2006

Once upon a time there was François Monchâtre and his non-productive machines with sumptuous workings.

Once upon a time there was François Monchâtre and his morons who look like senior executives and waste their life earning their living.

Once upon a time there was François Monchâtre and his caustic humor, his endless spirals in which the morons of nothingness return to nothing, the immense vacuity of the negation of existence.

Once upon a time there was François Monchâtre and his comical sculptures, living caricatures of a tender, pitiful society, where on a street corner, in a moment of sex, love or hatred, bodies sometimes meet and see each other in the magic of an encounter.

Is François Monchâtre a nihilist?

Using humor and laughter to make a biting criticism of a society that takes itself too seriously, his sculptures are caricatures whose precise and delirious black and white graphics stick in your mind.

Lélia Mordoch