Give us a run down of your practice.
I am an oil painter focused on the depiction of the human figure. In my work I use light, pose and gesture to create economic narratives.
My paintings are inspired by the people and places surrounding me and I am currently developing work that merges these together into figurative landscapes.
I work primarily life-sized - I feel that this is important to the impact on and therefore the relationship between the work and the viewer, as at life-size you are experiencing a scene at a scale that you would in reality.
Tell us about your studio environment? How does it fit with/complement your making practice?
Currently I’m working from my home studio and paint primarily with natural light. I’ve worked in a number of different lighting conditions over the years and while I’ve never let bad lighting get in the way of making paintings, working with natural light is really important to me. I’m also quite fortunate that outside of my studio is garden and trees, so with the high ceiling and big windows it feels like quite an outside studio - which is great seeing as I’m trying to incorporate nature and landscape into my paintings.
I feel fortunate to be working as an artist in Adelaide as I’ve found that it’s possible to have more space and natural light than in some of the bigger cities. I’m also very inspired by the surrounding landscape as I mentioned, and it is influencing my work more and more.
How do you further or break with traditions of figurative painting?
I don’t see that I break with the traditions of figurative painting - I question how easy it is to break from any tradition that we are part of and have been educated in. Meaning that we are always influenced by what has come before and by everything that we have seen - it’s inescapable. So in this way I think that figurative painting is like an ongoing conversation - a conversation with the past and the present.
I would say that I am continuing a tradition of a language of the depiction of the human form - how we speak with the body. I’ve never seen my work as particularly ‘traditional’, however, I’m aware that it is sometimes seen this way. I guess the reason why I’ve not ever seen myself as a traditional artist is perhaps because the subjects and concepts I choose to work with are ones that interest me now and that I feel are relevant to now, it’s just that I feel I can best express myself through representational painting.
My influences are quite wide ranging, so while I am always looking at painting and being inspired by other painters, I am also drawing influence from other art forms, like literature, music and dance. Music has in recent years become a great influence on my work - I have a rather synesthetic way of drawing musical influences into my painting.
How do you go about choosing a model to work with?
Until very recently I have always painted family, friends or self-portraits. I feel that knowing the sitter personally comes across in the work - you’re painting you own memories of that person and your connection to them in a way.
How do you see drawing fit within your (primarily) painting practice?
I am always drawing - even when I am painting. I draw with paint and I am constantly thinking about drawing concepts when I am painting. Most ‘problems’ in my painting are actually drawing problems.
As a practice in itself though, I don’t create many ‘finished’ pencil or charcoal drawings at the moment, although I do quick studies and compositional sketches. Some of my recent drawings in the ‘Dust and Pollen’ series started out as compositional studies, that I decided to take further into finished drawings. I do really enjoy drawing with pencil or charcoal, I feel much less pressure than when I’m painting because there aren’t issues of drying time etc. It’s quite an immediate medium in that way. For the present time though, I am completely focused upon painting. I absolutely love paint and colour. It expresses the ideas and images that I have in my head at the moment, so I feel I can grasp them quicker through paint than dry mediums.
We noted a possible surrealist or dreamlike influence particularly in some of your earlier work ... is this a continuing theme for you?
I’m guessing it’s the ‘Alice’ series that you’re referring to, which at that time aligned to an interest in playing around with visual illusion and pictorial space. I still have an interest in visual illusions, but in a more realistic way than previously. While I’m not working with a dream or surrealist theme at the moment, some of the themes from this series have continued through to my current work - storytelling, journeys, figure in landscape and a fascination with blue.
The self-portrait that followed the ‘Alice’ works was of the Hanged Man which I actually considered a classical-realist painting. Looking at a lot of classical painting, figures were painted in an interior studio with an exterior environment painted around them - so I saw the Hanged Man as being part of this heritage. But yes as it’s title suggests, (the Antipodes Seen as They Seem in a Dream) I am exploring the world in my mind as much as the world directly around me in these early works.
Can you tell us a bit about your time at Studio Escalier's Intensives?
Studio Escalier has had a huge influence upon me. I started studying there with Timothy Stotz and Michelle Tully in 2012 during the final year of my BVA and continued studying with them on and off over the next four years. I started with the drawing intensive at the Louvre - at the time I was still really intimidated by painting so started with drawing first. It was a two and half month course, with half the time spent with a life model in the studio and half the time working from sculpture or paintings in the Louvre. The combination of masterworks and working from life was really ideal. Most of the time in the Louvre I spent in the Cour Puget with the 17th-19th century sculptures, where I learnt a lot about movement and conveying ideas through pose and spatial composition. After this first time at Studio Escalier I’ve never thought of painting or drawing in two-dimensions again - it gave me a great spatial understanding and taught me to think much more sculpturally - it kind of rewired my brain to think always in the three-dimensions.
Following this I spent a total of 9 months in Argenton in the French countryside which was an intensive amount of drawing and painting directly from the life model. As Argenton is in a tiny town there aren’t really any distractions from drawing and painting, so it was very intensive - also because outside of class we would landscape paint as well as draw and paint each other. The skill set that I developed during this time was invaluable in giving me the tools to create the work that I want to make.
How are you finding the transition from being an 'emerging artist' to a 'mid-career artist'? Or do you disagree with that statement?
I would still consider myself as an emerging artist. The last time I studied was in 2016, all of my previous paintings being made between - or during - periods of study, and only since then have I been purely focused upon making new work in the studio, so I feel like I am in the very early stages of my career still.
How has being an associate artist of Hill Smith Gallery benefited your career? How did this come about?
I’ve been an associate artist at Hill Smith Gallery since my solo show with them in 2016, which was a wonderful experience and gave a great amount of exposure to my work. It was really exciting to exhibit my first solo show with them, it’s a great gallery space and a really supportive team. A first solo show is a big career step and I felt very fortunate to exhibit at such a prestigious gallery.
What are you currently working towards? Where might we be seeing your work in the near future?
Currently I am working on a new body of work which I started in 2016. I came up for the idea for this series back in 2012, but put it on the back burner for a while, which I’m glad that I did because it has matured and developed into a much richer concept. This new work is still very much in progress at the moment, so you’ll have to keep tuned for the upcoming show - I announce upcoming exhibitions on the news page on my website and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/ellienoir_