And then I met US painter Marcia Holmes, who opened the world of mixed media to me. For her, pastels came last, for the highlight of pure colour. She was very experimental for the first layers: inks, oils, acrylics etc… But it still felt very controlling to me. I wanted the artwork to surprise me and to engage in a dialogue with me. That's when ink entered my practice. Randomly throwing water on paper, then ink, see it fusing and then with a gesture of the palette knife, unlock a landscape, a bird, a woman out of that drying ink. See colours mixing, guiding them further, adding more water or different hues. It is a fast and exhilarating moment. There cannot be any repentance, paper drinks the inks fast and forever, you have to make with what you have, adapt to it. That's a great life lesson as well that I try to apply to other domains! Go with the flow, adapt, trust the process. When the inks are dry, I enhance some parts with dry pastels. Their luminosity and the sheer power of pure pigments are still incomparable to me.
Where do you find your inspiration? What are the main drivers for you to start a new series?
Inspiration can come quite unexpectedly. This is not something I can control. It can be looking at nature and feeling its energy. It can be a book I love. A poem. Yesterday, I was walking in the street, and I saw two little girls playing by throwing imaginary ball to each other. And the word "suncatcher" came to my mind. How about catching the sun and throwing it/sending it to the ones you love? There is a bit of a risk in that but what is life if you don't take a few risks? The image of the suncatcher or of sun catching is now in my head, I am curious to see how it will express itself one day.
Coming back to fairy tales, they usually have a moral that should teach small people to differentiate between good and evil. Does it reflect in your artwork? Do you believe in the healing power of art?
In every one of us, there is both light and darkness. You need to be aware of the darkness, including your own, to be able to enjoy the light and lead a happy life. This is particularly true in the fairy tales I write. Some are quite dark but there is always hope. In my art, the paintings tend to have a "mood" that I hope invites viewers to meditate and dream. Here as well, it is a matter of shadow and light, the obvious and the mysterious. I definitely believe in the healing power of art. Doing art is incredibly healing and enriching in itself. Looking at art and connecting with a special piece is a rush of emotions that makes life so great living.
Could you please tell us about your artworks presented at 2chairs?
I would like to share two imaginary landscapes. The first one is called "Heaven in a Wild Flower", it is made with inks and soft pastels on paper. It is inspired by the poem of William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence", particularly the verses "To see the World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower…". I really like the idea of a world and a flower merging so that none is immediately recognizable as such. Blurring boundaries is a favourite theme of mine. There are soft tones and there are dark tones, coming back to the principle of shadow and light, disquieting and reassuring. Hope is represented by the energetic orange mark-making that transcends the dark & light duality.
The second one I made just a few months after arriving in Italy, it is called "Sicilia Onirica" (Dreamlike Sicily). I had not visited Sicily yet and I tried to interpret it by putting together what I knew and how I felt about this evocation: the volcanic strength, the sensual colours, the influences of so many incredible civilizations… I visited a few months later and I confirm this is a wonderfully inspiring island. If I had to paint it again, I would probably use more intense, primary colours and leverage even more energy. But I will not, as the whole point was evoking an imaginary place from preconception.
Any plans, hopes, or doubts that you want to share with the 2chairs audience?
First of all, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity of this interview. It is very motivating to reflect on the past, learn from it and think of the future. If I may, I would like to close our discussion with two points.
First, I would like to normalize the fact that artists might have to work on the side but that they are still artists no matter what. Passion is great and absolutely needed, pragmatism on how to reach (and finance) your dreams is also very important. And both can definitely coexist.
Last but not least, being an artist is about reinventing yourself. Your life itself is an art project. There can be many different phases, as there can be many chapters of the same book. So do what matters to you and create what makes you vibrate.
Solène, it was a really inspiring talk with you! Hope to see you soon in Berlin at one of our upcoming group exhibitions!