By SPECIWOMEN Illustration VISNJA MIHATOV
"I have two children, and therefore being an artist as well as a mother is somehow an act of resistance. It is out of the question that I make a choice or resign myself. Nevertheless, I sometimes have to be a kind of Shiva with extra arms and brains to manage all the logistics."
What do you do?
I am a visual artist. I practice drawing, painting, sculpture and video installation.
I choose my medium according to what a project dictates me, but the recurring themes of my work are bodies, nature and memory, which I revisit through a mythological, symbolic or poetic spectre.
I like having hands in material, being in a sensual relationship with the media which I have an interaction with. I work with natural and ancestral techniques as oil paint, coal, earth, and wax. In harmony with my mood, the images or the sculptures I create turn realistic and controlled or on the contrary bluntly gestural, away from academicism. I spend my time destroying what I created and recreating what I destroyed.
I took part in a bunch of exhibits in France, Switzerland, Italy and England, either in galleries or in art centers such as foundations and museums.
For example, my experience with the Fondation Ecureuil at the Bibliothèque Patrimoniale du Grand Cahors in June 2015 allowed me to build monumental formats and to offer another vision of my work. I had to adapt to a place steeped in history, full of very old books. Nothing to do with the traditional white cube. I had to respect the ancestral library, to enter into a dialogue with it, so that I would not be colonizing the place nor disrespect it. It was a wonderful challenge.
Have you always known what you wanted to do?
My training was very diverse. Though I always knew that I would be an artist somehow.
I went through training at the Conservatoire National Superieur of Dance in Paris and at the Opera of Lyon where I had the opportunity to interpret famous ballets of the classical repertoire as Don Quixote, Le Corsaire and La Bayadère, but also contemporary pieces as those of William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Mats Ek, Douglas Becker … Then I spent a few years training as an actress and I participated in several projects in theater, cinema and television. Finally I got into the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts of Paris.
How has art defined your life?
Art is central to my life. Critics, curators and gallery owners often come to see my works at my studio during the week but also on the weekend. My studio is just on the floor below my apartment. Whenever I am doing everyday housework, I am always working, I never turn off. I have two children, and therefore being an artist as well as a mother is somehow an act of resistance. It is out of the question that I make a choice or resign myself. Nevertheless, I sometimes have to be a kind of Shiva with extra arms and brains to manage all the logistics.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to travel when my exhibits are scheduled outside of my city or abroad, which allows me to discover places I would never have chosen. It is very exciting because, besides the museums I visit, I discover new cultures, new languages, new landscapes, new architectures, new crafts... All this reappears somehow in my work.
How do you live off your art?
The contemporary art world is an inner circle. You have to be patient and obstinate to be part of the game. You also have to be able to adapt to your interlocutors, for example to know how to apply and propose specific projects to institutions. Besides creating pieces, you have to photograph them, to edit the images, to write texts, to set provisional budgets, to prepare invoices … The image of the bohemian and solitary artist painting at night in her studio, sleeping all day long and living on love alone is unrealistic…
I have been working with the Da-end gallery in Paris since March 2015, which allows me to show my works in international fairs and to reach a larger audience. I also collaborate with the Doppelgaenger gallery in Italy. The only way to begin to make a living off some ones art is by multiplying contacts, art actors as well as collectors.
I also teach at the Atelier de Sèvres, a college prep school, which besides providing me a basic income, offers me a challenging exchange with my students. I love sharing my knowledge and accompanying these young people, watching them bloom.
What are some of your coping methods when you are stressed?
Dancing taught me rigor and steadfastness. I learned especially that your head is useless when your body is not committed too. I regularly practice Hot Yoga, which allows me to focus and let go of tensions. It makes me calmer and more effective.
Do you work better under pressure?
I appreciate challenge and constraint. I enjoy pushing limits and leaving my comfort zone. For example, I like to respond to an exhibit’s theme or to revisit classical pieces as I did at the museum Cognacq-Jay in Paris. However I need a climate of mutual confidence and benevolence to give the best of myself.
Who inspires you?
Brave people, people who dare take an unexpected path and are able to stay the course through winds and tides. I think of Pina Bausch, whose first shows were booed when she took controlof the Theater of Wuppertal.
Several artists, visual artists or choreographers, draw my attention, move me and are a part of my life: Louise Bourgeois, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Giuseppe Penone, Michaël Borremans, Vilhelm Hammershoi, Marlene Dumas, Camille Claudel, Sasha Waltz, Angelin Preljocaj, Mats Ek…
What is the best advice you have ever received, and which advice would like to give to somebody beginning in the arts?
We live in a society where everything goes faster and seems accessible with one click… but it is an illusion.
If I had to give a piece of advice to someone starting her career, I would tell her that there is no freedom without rigor, and that you need to fail to be able to succeed. Time is your ally. As for the best piece of advice someone ever gave me, here it is: "Do not try to be someone else, what you are is much more interesting."