Claire Louvet – The artist
This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.
Today I would like to present a young painter from Lyon.
Claire Louvet was born in 1979 in Sèvres near Paris but grew up and lived most of her life in Lyon. As a graphic designer, painting has always been her ‘full expression’, and more than her choosing painting, painting chose her.
This mode of artistic expression, this mode of representation of the world has always been so used by humanity, that it is a huge personal challenge to defy the art as a painter. Indeed, history is full of great masters and masterpieces, so it isn’t easy to take a brush, to stand in front of a blank canvas and to confront one’s whole being.
Beyond all intellectual interpretations, there’s the act, there’s the matter, there’s the emotion, there’s a human who allows us, canvas after canvas, to see the invisible, to translate the unspeakable, and that takes us where we have never been before.
The earliest paintings by Claire Louvet, influenced by Fauvism, were stained and tinged with exoticism. Then her work came close to abstract expressionism. Without ever being really figurative, we guessed subjects; we could recognize familiar forms, ethereal, progressively disappearing or maybe re-emerging…
And from those forms, and colors that go up in smoke or are diluted as ink, a subject has appeared: a woman. I wouldn’t say ‘the Woman’ because she’s that of an artist – she’s a question not an answer.
With her, the extent of the color wheel is restricted to become austere and the sensuality of the woman is covered with stone; however, in the postures of these white bodies we feel the passion, and in the bloody red touches, we perceive life.
That Claire’s work is aesthetic for some, and not for others, is a detail to debate. What one feels in front of them, in front of these paintings, in front of these women is more interesting.
Personally, I’m still wondering what they represent for me, and I remain fascinated by something that my mind doesn’t understand but that my sensitivity recognizes.
Claire, where does your passion for painting come from?
Like all children, I drew. And if they stop when they grow up, I continued. The painting didn’t interest me then. But one day, in a dictionary, I loved at first sight a painting by François Gérard, Cupid and Psyche and I thought: “It isn’t possible that a human should be able to do this…” I was fourteen and from that moment, I became interested in painting, art, and I started painting.
What feeds your work and your imagination?
Aesthetically, everything that belongs to the past, a former work, a piece of architecture. A cobbled street will touch me more than a landscape. And by extension, anything that tells something. From observing an old building or a marked face, I can read a story, an injury, it gives a depth, a relief, an extra dimension that doesn’t exist for me in a beautiful and smooth face or a modern building.
What artists or artistic work inspired you?
The novel Aurélien by Aragon, the film by Marcel Camus Orfeu Negro, that of Peter Brook Moderato Cantabile adapted from the novel by Marguerite Duras, or the work of the contemporary artist Ann Hamilton.
I know you’re also interested in the video. What relationship do you have with both forms of expression?
Apart from the picture they have in common, they’re two completely different approaches. Painting is something quite physical, we’re face to face with material, with the color, and the idea of time isn’t the same. What I like in the video is that, in addition to color, composition, there’s a movement that gives a rhythm as in an opera or a ballet, and there is also the music. In the video, we multiply references to the senses. If a painting is like an icon, in front of which we meditate as in a place of worship, the video is offered to us as a dance with the picture.
Three years ago, you decided to go and live in an artists’ residency in China to fully immerse yourself in your art. As a French artist, how did you live this encounter with this other culture, so different from French culture?
With a lot of excitement. So many new things available to me – things that seem perfectly incongruous in France – were completely normal over there. So many new things… It was refreshing. But after two years there, I could never change my place as a spectator for that of an actress. I stayed outside without being able to fit in and I felt isolated. I always travelled a lot but going abroad is different.
You have been back for a few months. What did you miss from France when you were in China, and conversely what do you miss from China?
I’m glad to see my friends and my family again, and, because I don’t speak Chinese, comfort in communication. Obviously everything is much simpler in French. And from China I miss the simplicity and kindness of the Chinese.
What are your favorite places in France?
There was the café At mimi in Lyon, but it was closed and dismantled. Decoration, furniture and walls to be reassembled in Australia! (Laughs) Paris of course because with every door handle sublime, Paris is like a giant Versailles. And in the south-west of France, I like the Black Périgord (Périgord Quercy), for its climate and its rolling landscapes forming the backdrop to a lot of very pretty medieval villages and castles.
Thank you Claire for the time you granted me, and thank you from My French Life™ for sharing all of this with us. To see more about Claire Louvet, visit her website: clairelouvet.fr