Paris Calling: Amélie Bigard, Jean Claracq, Clément Courgeon, Matthias Garcia, Nicolas Gaume, Cecilia Granara, Desire Moheb-Zandi and Madeleine Roger-Lacan

9 December 2022 - 11 February 2023
You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.” - Allen Ginsberg

Sapling and Siegfried Contemporary are pleased to present Paris Calling, a group exhibition celebrating the artistic energy coming from the city in the present moment.


The two galleries have come together to curate a compelling selection of the talent emerging from Paris. The city continues to carry its history with pride. Its streets and cultural institutions are filled with reminders of its literary and artistic golden ages of the late eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.


A number of the artists in this show look to the future while being imbued in this sense of long cultural history, hailing from the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris, one of the most significant art schools in France. They are joined by international artists having recently chosen to make Paris their home, attracted by the optimism that currently fuels the artistic scene in the city.


Amélie Bigard


Amélie Bigard trained as a religious icon painter at the Dormition Church School in Marseilles in addition to art school studies in Paris and Berlin. Bigard primarily uses egg tempera paint, the historic medium for icon painting. Her subject matter, however, is secular and non-traditional. She draws from everyday life and contemporary visual culture. Speaking about her icon painting training: “I want to keep this ritual and certain symbols with which I feel a connection. For example the engraving refers to the inscription in the flesh. There is something organic, sensual in egg paint.”


Bigard’s compositions redeploy formal devices from icon paintings. The artist sees vertical standing figures in her work as axial: connective tissue between above and below. In icons, this signifies the divine and the earthly. As in tradition, horizontal figures to Bigard are earthbound, standing for connection and fraternity. Icon painting will change the scale of the characters to express hierarchy of spiritual significance. Bigard upends this by keeping her characters the same size, giving all elements in her scenes an equal footing. She often depicts transitional moments, her characters bearing witness to change.


In Pussy Fairy Tale, a work included in the present exhibition, Bigard evokes an unsettling yet visually enticing virtual space in which a masked male character walks a pair of poodles. On the left side, we find an old master painting of Suzanne au bain, a biblical allegory of harassment and contemporary pornographic images of women on the right. The man looks straight out to us. Whose fantasy are we in?


Cecilia Granara 


Born in Saudi Arabia, the Italian painter Cecilia Granara has lived in Mexico City, Rome, Chicago, and Paris, where she currently resides. Her multinational upbringing has become her own kaleidoscope of experiences and cultures, through which she observes and interprets the world around her. She received a BA in Fine Art with mention of Honours from Central St Martin's College of Art and Design in 2013 and a BA in Fine Art from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 2019 she won a scholarship to pursue her studies at MFA level at Hunter College. 


Granara’s paintings draw inspiration from feminist art history and a variety of disciplines including sculpture, performance and fashion. Her works are born of her mastery of Italian mediaeval art, her visions of symbolic iconography, and her dedication to feminist readings and poetry. Combining these external influences with internal self-examination, Granara creates works that open up a spiritual dreamscape for her viewers to enter. This liminal space allows the viewer to sift through their inner state, be conscious of bodily sensations, and repose in peaceful meditation. Speaking recently, Granara said: “I think about what it means to be in a position to transmit emotions. Images and paintings are portals of sensation through which we can transmit emotions and messages. There is so much violence in our lives. I am motivated to offer moments of respite and reflection.” Granara’s paintings in the current exhibition Celestial Body and How do the stars touch me? How do I touch the stars? explore how we relate to the stars from both a scientific astronomical and symbolic astrological perspective. Hands reach into the skies peppered with stars. In the darkness, the direction of flow connecting earth and stars is ambiguous.

Clément Courgeon


Clément Courgeon graduated from École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 2021. Courgeon’s practice is centred around performance, his sculpture and paintings stemming from and inspiring his live interventions. The artist weaves intricate narratives inspired by his research into western folklore and rituals associated with carnival. “My work is a burrow, a shrine of absurdity. It revolves around the encounter of multiple mediums: photography, performance, painting, costume making and props. They come together to form an envelope that triggers my performance.” 


Recently, he participated in a group show at Mendes Wood Brussels curated by fellow artists Nathanaëlle Herbelin and Jean Claracq. Institutional appearances include a performance at the Fondation Pernod Ricard in 2021, the Théâtres des Expositions des Beaux-arts in Paris in 2020, and participation in the 72nd edition of the Festival Jeune Création. His work is currently on show at the Riksidrottsmuseum in Stockholm in a group exhibition about wrestling. He has been awarded the Prix Villa Noailles (2022), the Prix Artexprim (2022); Prix de la Cabane Georgia (2022) and the Félicitation du Jury DNASP Beaux-Arts de Paris (2021).


Desire Moheb-Zandi

Desire Moheb-Zandi graduated from CE Painting from The Art Students League of New York in 2016. She studied at the Parsons New School For Design in New York and Koç University in Istanbul in 2013. Moheb-Zandi learned to weave from her Turkish grandmother and integrates this personal history and cultural identity in her large-scale, sculptural tapestries. She meshes traditional techniques with modern motifs and media.


Approaching a new tapestry, the artist spends time gathering her materials before beginning to assemble on the loom. She sources recycled materials from her travels and throughout her daily life. These can be natural fibres that humans have been weaving for aeons as well as synthetics that only appear in the present day, such as rubber tubing and synthetic net. When combining her materials into the tapestry, the artist works intuitively from one medium to the next. For Moheb-Zandi, the process of weaving is still utterly contemporary, in that the technique follows a proto-digital methodology. Her loom pattern operates on a binary code just like a computer, using warp and weft threads instead of ones and zeros.


Jean Claracq


Jean Claracq graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 2017. Claracq addresses the phenomenon of isolation in the digital era, often depicting young people encircled by cold architecture, mimicking the blue light of their virtual worlds. In Mikołaj Jabłoński by the window, a work included in the exhibition Paris Calling, his subjects are pulled from social network accounts and portrayed motionless in front of a digital device. He uses fragmented images that give way to an imagined reality, aesthetically reminiscent of partitioned windows within screens. 


In 2021, he had solo exhibitions at Galerie Sultana and at Musée Delacroix and was shown at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris with “Open Space #7 Jean Claracq” in 2020. In 2018, he won the 2nd Antoine Marin Prize and the Roger Bataille Painting Prize. In 2021, he was shortlisted for the Prix Jean-François Prat.

Madeleine Roger-Lacan


Madeleine Roger-Lacan studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris between 2012 and 2019. Starting with practice centred on oil painting informed by her technical training, Roger-Lacan extends the medium beyond the typical scope of two dimensions and a four-sided canvas. The artist approaches painting as a raw material to facilitate new combinations, often employing collage and sculptural elements. Many of these interventions are destructive to force creation. You might find her taking scissors to a delicate portrait, transferring just the face onto a new composition to evoke fresh connections. 


For Madeleine, fantasies derived from her imagination convulse with literary reference and popular culture. “Fragments of a profound and personal reality aggregates to my experiences of a contemporary world in its most entertaining, superficial, artificial aspects.” Speaking about her practice as a whole, she says: “When I paint I want to create a perceptive shock that addresses directly to the viewer’s deep inner world. The disorientation that comes with it echoes the mystery of every being. Patience and slowness are maybe also necessary to look at my paintings.” 


Matthias Garcia

Matthias Garcia earned his MFA from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 2020 and has studied Art Therapy at Saint-Anne Hospital. His paintings often depict fantastical human figures in nature, drawing inspiration from studies from life alongside video games, fairy tales, and folklore. Derived from classic stories like Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid,’ Garcia depicts charismatic human figures in a style he describes as “mermaid-ish and against-reality-ish.” Dreams threaten to descend into nightmares, while childhood harkens back to an ambiguous purity through bursts of electric colour. It’s up to the viewer to invest it with their fears or fantasies.

Recent solo exhibitions include “Fakelores’” at Galerie Sultana in Paris in 2021, “Tous mes fleurs” at Fleurs Sauvage in Paris in 2019 and “'Sombre Printemps” at KG gallery in Tokyo in 2018. He has been included in group exhibitions at La Fab and L'Annexe in Paris in 2021, “Biennale de Paname” at La serre du grand parc and at Volonté93 in Saint Ouen in 2021 at Château de Rentilly - FRAC IDF in Bussy-Saint-Martin, at Les Magasins Généraux in Pantin, at the Pavillion Vendôme in Clichy, Galerie du Jour Agnès B in 2020, Extramentales in Arles in 2019, and Festival Do Disturb at Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2017.


Nicolas Gaume

Graduating from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 2021, Gaume is an academic oil painter. While his technique stems from tradition, contemporary practice informs his subjects. Gaume often works by series. He returns to sitters for repeat portraits or explores a single non-human subject. Observations from life help the artist make sense of his present. Narratives drawn from external sources help the artist root his sense of self in the past and future.

The woman in the portraits included in the present exhibition is Sarah Maison. She is a friend of the artist and fellow painter based in Paris. By varying composition, colour, gaze, and pose, each portrait shifts between emotive affects. Each portrait communicates a fragment of the shared human experience. By rendering the particular to the universal, Gaume engages with the portrait genre in its most potent form. A series featured in this exhibition depicts a boat at sea, burning from the stern. Their titles include the words “brûler son bateau,” which translates as “burn his boat.” The artist has drawn this subject from a story from Tarik Ibn Ziad invasion of the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century AD. The saying goes that the leader commanded his troops to burn the boats they used to arrive on the enemy shores. This meant their commitment to victory had to be total, with no promise of return. The artist related to the metaphorical message: you must break with the past to reach into the future.