Laurence Longueville is a fantastic artist who travels often, but lives in Geneva, Switzerland. Her work http://www.laurencelongueville.com/ is a celebration on contemporary still lifes that are more like fascinating landscapes. I wanted to find out what inspires this fascinating work, so I asked her all about it…
MICHAEL: Hello Laurence, First of all, I love your work. It's very big, BOLD, graphic and delicious. It sort of reminds me of James Rosenquist, yet you have your own vibe going. How do you describe what you do?
LAURENCE: Hello Michael! First of all, thank you. Very nice to meet you here! I always remember the explanations given to students: visit museums, visit galleries, meet artists, watch everywhere as much as you can, always learn, experiment, just to discover and make your own way, and don't go in already explored ones by others. Et voilà! My work is developed within "collections." With the "Memento Mori" collection, I create "Image-Landscapes," connecting the past to the present, taking roots of the art, placing them into my own way. What can be seen in my still life paintings is my contemporary interpretation of the traditional symbols used by the Dutch artists in the 16th and 17th centuries, such as time pieces, sculptures, money, musical instruments, butterflies and even skulls. They’re all tucked in bold graphic and colorful creations, inviting visual travel, as far away as the visitor is ready - or wishes - to go through! Ha!ha!
MICHAEL: I love still life paintings and your work really makes them fresh and hip. I do also get a feeling that you're also influenced somewhat by billboard advertising, marketing and media, No?
LAURENCE: Hmm, ten years of my business life probably left traces. I had worked in the advertising industry some decades ago. Are you a soothsayer? The work on the colors and the light, completed by the messages given by color itself, was always for me an evidence. I am looking to create art that’s both strong, complex, beautiful, but somewhat accessible, something calling from inside the painting, something like: “Hey! Hi! Hello! Yes! You! Let me disturb you, have a look.” One love, one hate, but I trigger a reaction!
MICHAEL: Yes, you do! How do you determine what you'll paint as a still life? Where do you get your inspiration? What goes through your mind and emotions while you're actually painting? In other words, what's the process like?
LAURENCE: Well, I choose the elements in life: a car, a bird, a cake, lips, flowers, beads, shops displays, a pinch erotic, my shoes, my violin, a zest from the street, just a good reason to create, something telling me inside "Use it, paint it." I try to create something beautiful, something bringing emotions, something of which one never tires, something questioning, inviting to a mental travel, something you can live with during a long time, something you are proud to show, emotions to share, a little piece of philosophy in something named color and composition. Large program, isn't it? Long process - each "Image-Landscape" takes many months in terms of completion, many sketches, worked and re-worked again, transformed, a new one, then maybe trashed, some changes, look on the side, look on it again, after some days, trashed again and again... That's my gestation process!
MICHAEL: Wow. It seems that the larger the works, the more vibrant they can be. What's the largest work you've ever created? I LOVE huge, bold works. I feel like I can get lost in them. Does the size of the work matter to you?
LAURENCE: Art is to give something; to give a matter to think about it, to give a part of his soul, of love … Larger, bigger, huge, vast? Then, of course, for the pleasure to give more! Oh, no, no, I don't speak from a normal painting just painted larger with larger brushes. No, no! In that case, it opens doors already opened, it's boring, and it is just done to impress the visitors. No, no. I just talk about some projects I have, ready to be completed, but are so huge that I need to find the right place before to realize it! I’m not talking about on canvas but on walls or on earth! On canvas, my works are about 74” by 78" and 63” by 66".
MICHAEL: Fantastic! Do you have space for so many huge paintings? Where do you keep them? How do you care for them?
LAURENCE: I travel a lot and I paint where I am. London, Berlin, Madrid, Geneva, etc. I exhibit permanently in different places and are added some solo and group exhibitions, the other paintings are stored in secured places, or are sold out. Magritte painted in his living room "on the corner of the table." Even if the painting is huge, it is painted with very small brushes, and I need less than 3m2 to be comfortable with some Green Tea, but never without music!
MICHAEL: Do you come from an artistic family? When did you first become an artist? What is your first memory of art?
LAURENCE: No, not really. My father was a hobby painter twice a year. I never asked myself this question. I drew before I had spoken and I never stopped. Kees Van Dongen, fascinated, Maurice Utrillo's Streets of Paris... and the first oil I used - at 7 or 8 – I found in a smelly, old, spotted, wood box, forgotten in an attic. This discovery changed my life.
MICHAEL: Some of your work is obviously very female-focused. Is that a feminist statement or do you just think female figures are great to paint?
LAURENCE: Artworks have a gender. Yes, I think artworks have a gender, not in conjunction with what is shown, no, but exactly with what we can feel, the female or the male character of a composition, even if it is abstract. My vanitas have an ironic face in a subliminal way. I don't show female figures at the first sight. I talk about the trend, about the fashion, what is said to be good for us, what we have to look like. I do with the enjoyment evoked by the sensuous depiction, I talk about the ephemeral nature of life, the futility of pleasures and a certain obsession with death.
MICHAEL: The futility of pleasures. I like that. Now we're talking! Are you saying that your work is about hedonism and mankind's futile search for meaning in pleasure and sensuality?
LAURENCE: Yes, if we consider that the hedonistic philosophies are based on curiosity and taste for existence, but also advocating the autonomy of thought and not on belief, knowledge and experience of the real rather than faith, all within a set time before death.
MICHAEL: Shouldn't we also have faith? If all we seek is pleasure, we will have ultimately empty, meaningless lives.
LAURENCE: The human brain is structurally built in search of fun, wanting to have, possess, to appropriate, to have pleasures, have pleasant times, survive, etc. Whatever name we give to the vector: jewelry, books, car, fine clothing, or just fruits and water. From my perspective, all life is inherently rich, because its being built every day, with or without faith. My paintings are not judgmental. I do not judge anyone through them, I assembly images, without messages, just a contemporary transcription.
MICHAEL: Finally Laurence, why is art so important? And what does your work mean? What do you want people to see when they look at your work?
LAURENCE: Art is so important for many reasons. The first one: I would say art can enrich the life. An artwork is made by an artist, but NEEDS a spectator for an interpretation. My collectors are telling me about my paintings, "It matches, it ties in," or "It speaks to me." I don't want people to “see” when they look at my work, I prefer to say.... I WISH they FEEL!
Thank you Michael, it was a very great honor to me and a great pleasure. All the best.
MICHAEL: Thank you Laurence. You’re a super-talented artist.
Check out Laurence Longueville at http://www.laurencelongueville.com/.