The title of your upcoming exhibition 'Before the Sun sinks low' implicitly alludes to not only the significance of lighting but also its effect on colour. Can the literal role that colour plays in your work be separated from the conceptual role that colour plays in society?
The title 'Before the sun sinks low' became pertinent for me towards the end of 2020. I think it reflects my vision of this very special year, between imposed artificial light and the light of a dream sunset. Light dictates colours and I am in an incessant search for colours capable of embodying my emotions and feelings over a given period of time.
The role of colours in our society can certainly not be studied through a single series of works. We cannot have a serious answer to this question, because it is impossible to project on my images the real or imagined conceptions, that colour plays in our society. With the profusion of images, advertising and fashion, the symbolism of colours is evolving even faster and perhaps people are appropriating colours more personally and instinctively than before the 1960s.
Your work often emphasises femininity in a subtle, yet, eye-catching way that sometimes borders on provocative. Are you trying to alter pre-existing physical and sexual fantasies that have shaped the mentalities of Western societies by depicting women in their non-integrity or do you want to deconstruct stereotypes and make the invisible visible?
Again, I think it would be very pretentious of me to imagine deconstructing or modifying the fantasies that exist about the psychological, semantic and symbolic image of women. My starting point is a personal point of view so it is delicate to grasp how this can be received. However, refocusing on details and trying to return to a neutral ground, taking the essence of the personality, is a work that continues to pursue me. I try to lengthen the attention one can pay to details that may seem trivial. I have always read a painting in this way, lingering on a calf, a nose, a breast… assuming that it was the centre of a work.
What advice would you give to an artist in need of inspiration or encountering a creative mental block?
Several quotes come to mind, but they contradict each other! Which proves that I don't have ready-made answers to this huge question. I think we should try to avoid fear. Projecting myself into my 80s often allows me to erase the barriers I put in place of my present-day self. You have to try not to judge yourself too harshly because you can't know if what you've just done will have an impact. On the other hand, if you don't do anything, it's absolutely certain that there will be nothing: no echoes of impact or memories.
How have your experiences in 2020 influenced the way you work?
I tended to work for the rewards, trips, adventures, good meals, the bright lights on the other side of the Atlantic.
This year I learned how to be more patient. I looked at the future differently, I accepted boredom sometimes and moved a little less hurriedly.
Is there a specific set of emotions that you are looking to convey in this exhibition or is your focus more on creating artwork that is fundamentally evocative? Above all, what do you hope visitors will take away from the exhibition?
As I said earlier, projecting myself a few decades into the future helps me to know what I really want, and in this case, I would like my work to be able to captivate a generation, to capture an important moment so that it remains in time and necessarily that its form is timeless. But for the time being, I would especially like no one to leave indifferent, I would prefer that one be hated, or disturbed, rather than be indifferent. I want visitors to be affected, and that the work is in their thoughts when they leave.
I should also say that I prefer passions to big explanations - passions are not always explained with words.
Given the persistent issues surrounding the pandemic, is part of your intention with this exhibition to offer a hopeful experience? Furthermore, would you say that you're an optimist?
I hope to give spaces for hope, strength, desire, escape, fantasy, and invention. I want to go as close as possible to the sun without burning my wings.
I often think of Anakin Skywalker-the moment where he sank touched me as a teenager. I have a lot of tenderness for the repentant bad guys, or the good guys who can't help sinking.
'Before the sun sinks low' by Inès Longevial is available to visit at Les Grandes Serres de Pantin running through to 29 January 2021. Tickets are available here.