She is never without a journal, and in fact during our interview, she flipped though the latest one – a small unlined notebook filled with her large, angular writings, drawings, expressions of people, photographs, visiting cards, a card of a Laundromat, and many other minutiae. After her lesson in calligraphy twenty years ago, she began writing her life story, and also putting bits and pieces on personalized postcards which she would send to friends and family. When she isn’t making her artworks, she is still constantly writing in her journal and making these postcards, the latest of which she is exhibiting in Nepal.
Francotte’s postcards are only the visible by-products of her constant and disciplined work ethic, a discipline instilled in her right since the days of ballet dancing. Especially in light of the French diarist and memoirist Annie Ernaux winning the latest Nobel prize for literature, Francotte’s journals – 74 in total – seem like works of art in themselves. Francotte agrees that they come from her persistent need to express the profusion of feelings within her, from notes of a lonely evening to quotes from a book she is reading.
“There is such freedom in writing here,” she says. However, she has not thought seriously of publishing them, as for her the journals are a way of documenting her life. “When I was 17, I had written ‘I want to be an artist’, in one of the journals. I never went back to it until I reread it in the COVID lockdown, but the intention was always there,” she says. “It’s always like that. The premises of my works today can be found in the journals of yesterday. They were works in progress, even though I couldn’t see that then.”
For example, Francotte turned to portraiture, which she calls ‘the gateway to the souls of human beings’, ten years after she began drawing and exhibiting. “I could not explain the attraction of portraits. But when I went back to my archives and notes I kept, I saw all these black and white portraits of people that were capturing these expressions. I could not see it then,” she says, echoing many artists’ feelings about the relationship between inspiration and output. “What is written remains. I can’t explain how it works, but it works for me.”
Francotte’s collection of postcards and clay sculptures will be exhibited at Patan museum from 21-25 October.
Read more: Nepal’s history through art, Lisa Choegyal