For the latest in our Creative Conversations series, E&M‘s Salomé Melchior interviewed multidisciplinary artist Christine Vannier in her Paris studio.
Christine Vannier is often in Brittany, on the West Coast of France, where she draws inspiration from the air and the sea. She also has a studio in Paris, and it is here, amongst her sculptures and paintings, that Salomé met her for this interview.
Salomé: Hello Christine! Thanks for showing me around one of your art studios. Are you ready to dive into this interview, and give us a glimpse of your artistic universe?
Christine: During the pandemic, we need to dream even more than in previous years. Art is here to open a window on the imagination. I try to project a positive worldview during obscure times.
My art-studios are areas in which I spend a big part of my life. It would be a little strange to say “I am art” but there’s something true in this… I can best express myself with and through colours, shapes and volumes. The artist has the possibility to communicate their feelings through their art. It’s what I do, I show rather than write, I express myself best without words and pure emotions thrown on a page. When I paint, my body expresses itself like the body of a dancer, who doesn’t speak and simply feels.
When I paint, my body expresses itself like the body of a dancer, who doesn’t speak and simply feels.
My inspiration comes partly from my life experiences and from contemporary world issues. I live in Brittany because I need the sea and the spirit that emanates from it. Pablo Neruda’s quote “I need the sea because it teaches me” sounds very powerful and inspiring to me.
I like isolation, yet I love to meet people too, to listen to them and interact with them. They inspire me as does music, literature and various forms of art. When I am in Paris, every and any moment can be a source of inspiration. My art studio in Paris is a spot in which I behave and express myself in a different way than in Brittany. It is less spacious, so it is a manner to express myself with other techniques than the ones that I use by the sea. In Brittany, I use virtual reality a lot. It offers me a gigantic world. Meanwhile, in Paris, there are a lot of my early and long-term productions. Figurative work such as a couple of sculptures recall a big exhibition at the Ministère des finances, where I exhibited a big painting and around forty sculptures.
The subject of these sculptures were women with arms crossed behind their backs: some look revolutionary, others seem somehow submissive. Women’s condition, child protection, protecting the planet, “Malbouffe” i.e. “junk food” are subjects that interest me and which I explore in my artistic universe.
Salomé: How do you come up with the titles of your paintings?
Christine: In my view, titles should not direct the mind of the spectator towards a frozen understanding, but they should rather inspire and open the mind to interpretation. My titles are not meant to be enclosing, but they rather seek to enhance the imaginative potential of the spectators.
I would like the spectators of my paintings to feel free when they see my work. The colours I use are vivid because I seek to communicate a positive attitude. Thus, for me, the titles are a poetic expression, like the icing on a cake.
To express myself through art is a sort of liberty, a permanent invention. I believe in the intelligence of the body and the instinct of the mind. I don’t seek to intellectualize my work. My gestures on paper translate what I feel in my soul.
Salomé: You seem to have an eclectic background and personality. Have you always been a painter? If not, when did you realise that painting was made for you and that it would become your profession?
Christine: When I was four years old, my father gave me a pencil, a blue turquoise pencil, and I loved the colour! It was the beginning of my desire to create. Different materials and mediums entered my imaginary worlds.
Over time, I became more and more demanding. My artistic universe has grown in tandem with my experiences. At some point in my life, art was purely my passion and then it became my lifestyle and my profession. My intention has always been the same: reproduce what there is in the eye of the camera of my mind.
Salomé: You have known many professional sailors in Brittany, in the Golf du Morbihan, since you started a family with one of them. I’m curious to know whether you see a parallel between sailing and art, or sport and the arts in general?
Christine: Because of a lack of space to paint, one day I decided to move to Brittany. I immediately loved the sea and the boat races. I met a sailor with whom I started a family. The sponsor of my partner’s boat during the “Vendée Globe challenge” asked me to create the external design of the boat. It was a new experience on a very big surface. This was a great life experience: I was able to follow the construction of the ships and the training of the sailors. I also work with photography, so these moments were precious to me.
Salomé: In recent years, you are exploring the technique of virtual reality, which is particularly intriguing. Could you tell us more about it?
Christine: For a long time now, I’ve felt free to explore new technologies. A few years ago, I was attracted to digital technologies. I learned how to use virtual reality as an autodidact. It is a technology that allows you, with the help of a special headset, to immerse someone immediately into an artificial world created digitally.
Virtual reality as a new creative space enables me to express myself without borders. The movement is important, my body is implicated in the creation, I physically move a lot in my art-studio. My brushes are virtual and the result can be seen in 2D on a screen or in an art printing format. Next, I’d like to join the NFT world, so crypto-art.
Salomé: You have travelled to Nepal a couple of years ago. What does the country represent to you? Did this journey somehow change you?
Christine: The intense trip in Nepal by myself allowed me to consider my daily life from another point of view and to gain new strength. Powerful existential trips can be done everywhere and anywhere – even within oneself! Today every moment is a source of inspiration. During my trips to Nepal, I was collecting sounds to bring back memories of an amazing population in a land far from home. Today, I experiment with new, affordable “binaural sound” technology which can correctly replicate a given atmosphere.
Salomé: The two colours that I have in mind when I think about your artistic universe are yellow and blue. Maybe these colours are so meaningful in your paintings because they represent two essential elements on earth: water and fire. Could you please tell me more about how you deal with colours? Is your artistic process somehow academic or rather experimental?
Christine: My process is spontaneous. Creation allows me to express what’s important to me. My work of the day is inspired by the work of the day before. Each piece leads to the next; pieces of my work build upon each together. My creation goes with the flow and the outcome is natural.
My palette of colours and the way I use it evolves over time. Blue and yellow existed in my palette during a long period of my life, then reds appeared and replaced them. Then, for a period of four years, my colours became monochrome, I used only black and white.
At some point, bright colours reappeared. The use of colour is not always chosen; I feel like colours tend to choose me!
All my experiences contributed to my autonomy and my personality. I have no rules apart from respecting the sincerity of my heart.
Find out more about Christine on her website.
Cover photo: courtesy of Christine Vannier