Interview: Violaine Vieillefond
Luca Curci talks with Violaine Vieillefond during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 – THE SECRET GARDEN, at Misericordia Archives.
Violaine Vieillefond was born near Paris in 1970 in an educated family whose intellectual interests were diversified. Her mother taught Comparative Literature and the History of British Art at the University, and her father was an engineer. She had been trained from her earlier years in different fields, scientific and artistic, and was soon made familiar with the Anglo-Saxon world and had a strong taste for travel. From childhood onwards her mother made her follow courses in art studios which she pursued in adolescence and took her to many art exhibitions and museums. She lived close to the Marmottan Museum and thus often visited the Monet exhibition there, in particular The Nympheas. At the age of 17 in California, she discovered American Abstract Expressionism, large-size painting and color fields. She first graduated in science, economics and politics, while continuing to study art and art history, at the City of Paris Fine Art Studios with abstract painter Martin Bissière, grandson of famous Roger Bissière of the Historic “Ecole de Paris”. Trained as an engineer and as well as visual artist, she has always been fascinated by images and her experimentations carried out in the course of her studies in sciences: from then on, colored fluids in movement, micro and macrocosmic worlds have nourished her own universe and influenced her approach as an artist. Thanks to the technique she chooses as much as to the forms in her paintings in which hazard fills a large place, her work brings to light the specificity of water in movement and its aesthetic and emotional potentialities. We feel transported into a universe of forms being metamorphosed, organic and cartographic, and it leads us to question life itself. For more than twenty years, she has exhibited in France and abroad (European Commission in Brussels, O Art Museum in Tokyo, Fine Arts Museum in Okinawa, New York Art Expo, The Water Pavilion in Paris, the Science and Industry Museum in Paris, Spectrum Miami, the Paris Polytechnic Institute, galleries in Paris, Flers Castle Museum in Normandy (France), YIA Art Fair/ Paris Contemporary Art Show, Art Elysées Fair in Paris, Venice International Art Fair, Luxembourg Art Fair… Her first extensive monography was published in 2020 in French and in English. She currently lives and works in Paris.
Luca Curci – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
Violaine Vieillefond – First of all, I would like to thank you, Luca, Giulia, and the whole ITSLIQUID team, for inviting me again in Venice, such a special place to my heart, to show my work. After Venice International Art Fair in Spring and Borders Art Fair in Summer, at Calle Larga San Marco in the center of the city, next to the Basilica and the square, now in Autumn is Contemporary Venice, in my most beloved and authentic district, out of tourists’ way: the beautiful Cannaregio. I should say… almost a year in Venice, amidst its canals and the laguna, waters and lights, colors and memories and most of, amidst its secret places. The mystery and magic of life… Venice is the most secret and intimate place; whoever gets lost in its dark streets during the night, feels this very awkward and unique condition of being a stage character in this world, losing one’s groundings, diluting into its waters and in one’s own reflections and thoughts. While I paint, I imagine myself as being both the (human) character and its is reflection, both the observer (of nature) and the player, altogether the creator, Narcissus… but also as Ophelia who drowns or rather dilutes herself into the elements, into the water, into Nature. I have to feel the ephemeral, the ‘fugitive’ (to quote the French poet Baudelaire), the very temporary substance of life, to aim at touching somehow the eternal and immutable necessity of art and beauty, which keeps up alive. To me, the artist is the medium who can put into form the intense feelings of this fragility of life. To make it more bearable.
LC – What are you currently working on?
VV – During the almost 18 months-long lockdowns, I missed (like many of my fellows) nature more than ever, and felt an intense necessity to set my works, painted works, directly in situ in nature. To reconnect, to rebind, and find the ‘comfort’, that indeed what had happened whatever the personal and collective tragedies, was only a part of the natural cycle of life, of evolution, which includes disease, decay and death. Therefore, quite a step aside from my ‘usual’ studio paintings on canvas or photography works, I developed in 2021 a whole new series of photographs and short films of ephemeral installations set in natural landscapes, linked to water – the principle of life (Thales of Miletus) – evoking the antique and imaginary figure of the Ninfa (first developed by the 19th Century Art Historian Aby Warburg) through the lovely myths of nature protecting nymphs: Nereids for seas, Dryads for forests and trees, Naiads for pure water. Last but not least, Ophelia, the Shakespearian character who dissolves herself into water and vegetation. An allegory of the contemporary approach of sustainability, a tribute to the beauty of Nature, and to our ancestors’ questions and hopes which, in the end, are not so far still from ours. Where do we come from… where are we… where are we going…?
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
VV – For more than 20 years now, my work has been focusing on the water both as a medium and as a subject matter, aesthetically of course, but also scientifically, ecologically, socially, politically. I feel this subject itself is infinite… I think it is firstly instinctive because it relates to a deep and inexplicable connection to nature and needs to give meaning to our life here on earth. Like a vision, if to use a religious analogy. But then it is also reasoned because the creative process is a very long one, it needs hard work, overcoming persistent self-doubt. And it is very solitary…
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
VV – It is never completed, unfortunately!
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
VV – Yes and no. Yes, because it is very difficult to judge by oneself and I suppose the work is never completed until it is shared with other human beings. More of the time this sharing is very encouraging. And no, because in the end, one comes back to one’s solitary path.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
VV – I come from Paris, so to say a very granted city, land, country, for history, culture, art, science, political issues because it is also the cradle of freedom and democracy. But Venice is very special, as I already said. CONTEMPORARY VENICE – THE SECRET GARDEN is a beautiful theme, especially when one has a privileged relationship to this unique city not only surrounded by water but whose veins and arteries ARE water. A place where almost all artists have found inspiration and have fallen in love (with), out of time and geography, it is the one and unique place where we can open our hearts… to one’s secret garden. As to fulfill this ‘secret’ environment, you have chosen both a more intimate district – Cannaregio – my favorite, and a very significant location, Misericordia Archives. Who wouldn’t wish some kind of misericordia in those difficult and painful times?
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
VV – One’s secret garden… that is, one’s secret dreams. The two selected works shown in this exhibition are from my series “Arizona Dream”, out of my childhood’s private memories with my late adored father when we used to imagine Far West deserts and grandiose landscapes from old movies. As water totally or partly erases everything, so has the elapsed time since then overlaid those memories, those paintings on photography are very intimate
attempts to make these memories come back to the surface. Between dream and reality. A secret garden, truly.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
VV – I got to know ITSLIQUID GROUP through Instagram, as I was looking for good conditions to show my work in Venice where I intend to stay longer in the following years. This is a long-time project which has been delayed due to the pandemic. Eventually, I sent a portfolio of some works which were accepted. ITSLIQUID offers regular and thematical Art Fairs in Venice, including during the Biennale, which makes it particularly attractive, and also in dynamic cities such as London or Barcelona.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
VV – Yes, very much!!! Beyond the obvious quality of the exhibition spaces, I am very impressed and thankful for the outstanding professionalism of the team and the whole project: administration, artistic advice, logistics, communication, social media visibility, kindness. It is a real pleasure.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
VV – I am just very sorry I was unable to come myself to meet the team and visit the beautiful shows and locations! You make however feel we are with you by building a very nice connection and mail/social media interaction with the artists. Thank you!