Blandine Bardeau Q & A
What is your studio process?
Getting-up in in the morning, I always try to “get there” before I start anything. I make a cup of tea, I go by bottle of water and add some mint and lemon, I try to do something nice for myself. Then I usually answer emails, so I try to do admin in the mornings and then just make art in the afternoon.
I try not to leave too late because I like cooking, eating and sleeping well…
What is your workspace like?
My workspace is quite big and bright, unfortunately no window onto the outside but nonetheless very bright with very high ceilings. I am in a studio complex in South east London, we have separate spaces but no roof directly on top of our cubicles so you can hear what everyone’s up to. I have a big chest of drawers for my papers that my boyfriend made for me recently, I have a great big drawing table too, and I’m a bit of a hoarder so I do have lots of stuff, especially since I used to do fashion and jewellery, and now I do drawing and paintings and sculpture so it’s full!
What are some of the biggest changes you've seen or experienced that really inspired you?
Well, a couple of years ago I went through a very very difficult period and I think that has brought refinement and focus to my practice. It’s easier now for me to say “I’d like to concentrate on drawing, and this is what I love to do, and it’s worthwhile” without feeling influenced by ideas others may have of what’s best for me to do…
What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them?
I think that one big challenge is confidence, and believing that it’s worth pursuing. Sometimes, I feel that it is a very selfish and self-indulgent thing to be doing with my life, and also it is very hard to establish yourself and to make enough money to support yourself.
How do you navigate the art world?
I am not sure, I guess I just take each opportunity as it comes, one thing leading to the next one. Meeting people is key, whoever these people are.
Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?
Gosh, I suppose so. I suppose I see my work as quite modern, fitting in with other people I know of, but movement unfortunately not, not sure there are anymore of those? I’d love to feel part of a movement, like we have a common spirit going ahead.
Where do you turn for your inspiration?
Everywhere, other artists, pop culture, music, fashion, film tv series, magazine etc… anything can be inspiring. I love food and cooking so that’s a big one. At the moment I’m really into sea creatures so anything with tentacles that swims gets me going…
What role does your background play into your art? What about fashion?
Well I think that there’s something about textiles which I find inherently beautiful and fascinating. In traditional methods especially, the time and energy that was spent on weaving and embroidering is truly special. It’s a form of meditation for sure, and also textile is alive, the fibres are made from plants so they literally are alive, they change overtime, they get damages, they change colour. I think I used to design clothes in a very painterly way.
Any rituals you have when you do art?
Not especially no, I like tea and having a snack around 4pm…
Which other artists might your work be in conversation with?
Well, from my perspective I guess, I would like to think my work is in conversation with people like J T Merry , Sarah Cain, Wil Murray, Jonathan McCree, Jorinde Voigt, Gabriela Fridriksdottir, Aurel Schmidt and Lauren Clay.
If you could hang out with one person, living or dead, who would that be? What would you do?
Gosh that’s a hard question. It oscillates between a walk by a beautiful river with Rainer Maria Rilke (we’d talk about everything) and spending the day in a music studio with Björk or Cocorosie, I guess my contribution would be to play the triangle…or make tea.
What risks have you taken in your work, and what has been at stake?
Well I took the risk to shift from fashion to jewellery, then from jewellery to fine art. I had a growing following as a jewellery designer and could have pursued it, so that was at stake. But I needed to be true to myself.
When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to or look at to fuel your work?
I like to watch videos of artists I admire working in their studios. I find each person’s world so very fascinating, and it allows me to take a break from my own world. I go to exhibitions, which in London you have a wide choice of, I like to listen to radio podcasts like freshair on NPR or This American Life. Taking walks in Nature is also a beautiful way of refuelling.
Do you think the intellectualizing of art by the artist or viewer lessens its power or impact?
I don’t think that it lessens anything, I just don’t particularly like engaging too much with it. Some people’s work is primarily intellectual and that is fine, I just don’t want to have to do that to fit in, that’s all. At the end of the day intellectualizing is not the reason why I make Art, and I feel we have enough intellectualization around.
Do you intend your work to challenge the viewer?
I really honestly don’t think in that way about creation. I make what I make, if it challenges people I am very happy, if it doesn’t that’s fine too. I have very little control over it when it comes down to it I think.
What are you most proud of?
My drawings, definitely!
What advice has influenced you?
Recently, my internal voice, the quiet one we don’t often hear, has been telling me to stop listening to people imposing their own views onto your work and making you feel bad about it because it’s too this or that or not enough… I am the one who knows my works, I am the one through whom it travels, I know how to attend to it, water it, take care of it.
What do you want your work to do?
Be a true and honest representation of itself, and perhaps if I can touch on something universal and on beauty, that makes my day!
Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
I have a show starting next week called "Introducing" i twill be a Group Show at Curious Duke Gallery, 173 Whitecross St, London. 6th-29th August, Private View 6-9pm on 6th August.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
Sure. I am just about to start making drawings for a two people show in September (details TBC) and I have in mind to go bigger, which I am very excited about… If it happens, I’d also like to create a triptych of drawings, which I have never done before. I’d like for my work to be bolder and have more “weight” somehow, be more of itself if that makes any sense!
Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
There’s always a bit of me weaved in for sure, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s autobiographical no. It’s quite abstract in the end.
What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?
Well I think it’s a privilege, I am incredibly fortunate. I think it feels freeing, though sometimes I create mess around me and I seem to almost imprison myself in the mess, and then I cannot breathe and create because I feel trapped. That’s a big pattern of mine. I guess the space is quite practical, and people who come in say that it’s beautiful and welcoming and that’s quite important to me. I have just acquire two little plants, hopefully they’ll survive the cold! Sometimes I just have to go on a tidying spree because it’s very necessary.
During your childhood, how did you first become interested in art?
Well like most kids I started to draw, because that ‘s what we do, it’s the first “artistic” practice we engage in I guess. My dad paints and draws and takes pictures, so I think I was quite inspired by him. My mum is a huge art lover and she knows lots, we always had lots of art books, we’d go to exhibitions. I remember I got (or took I don’t know) a book about Picasso’s drawings and brought it to school. I got into trouble because there were some naked people in it. My parents always thought that that kind of attitude was absurd. I remember understanding from a young age that there was not much point in reproducing something exactly as it is in reality, that things are more interesting if you use your imagination to represent it. I was bathing in art, I took drawing classes from a young age, and did learn how to represent it as it is, which is useful when combined with a freer approach that’s important to me too.
What mediums do you work with?
It’s very mixed-media and it shift all the time. I use oil, acrylic, I love working on acetate and cutting bits and gluing them onto the paper, I use coloured pencils a lot, which I learnt to use in my early academic drawing classes. I use graphite and felt-tip pens, and recently have started to introduce watercolours.
How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?
I definitely have a penchant for ethereal, magical looking things, especially sea creatures, in particular jellyfish. I love plats too, nature, and the link between those and own human bodies. I think we humans have a tendency to think that we’re super special, unrelated to nature, but we are made of stars, of jellyfish and cacti.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
At the moment I am reading a book about yoga, which I do think is fuelling my work somehow. I’ve also fallen in love with a book called “Spineless: portraits of marine invertebrates, the backbone of life” by Susan Middleton, it’s very vey beautiful and the writing is very interesting and understandable. I’ve been listening to the latest Cocorosie songs from their album coming out in Autumn in the past few days…
How does your specific culture relate to your work?
Some people have said to me something to do with being French and having a penchant for the deeper things in life, existentialism and emotions.
Who do you most identify with?
Artist I admire. All of them.
How has your work evolved over time?
I think it’s gone through rollercoasters of different phases and interests, and different disciplines also. There’s a thread through it all I’d hope. I guess I am going full circle in a strange way. It all started with drawing, then fashion, jewellery, painting, sculpture, performance, videos, sound, back to drawing. Maybe I’ll do all of those again in a new 10 years cycle, who knows!
What do you like about your work?
I like that it mixes something time consuming and precise with something free flowing and spontaneous. I like the colours too.
Who are your the artists who inspire you?
The same as I’ve mentioned before really. Rilke, Björk, Cocorosie, Lauren Clay, Aurel Schmidt, J T Merry, Wil murray, Jorinde Voigt, Sarah Cain, Alma af Klint, Picasso, Georgia O’Keffe, Louise Bourgeois, Annette Messager, Louise Despont and the list could go on and on!
Did you grow up in an artistic environment? How influenced you? And did you study Art?
My dad paints and draws and takes pictures, so I think I was quite inspired by him. My mum is a huge art lover and she knows lots, we always had lots of art books, we’d go to exhibitions. I remember understanding from a young age that there was not much point in reproducing something exactly as it is in reality, that things are more interesting if you use your imagination to represent it. I was bathing in art, I took drawing classes from a young age, and did learn how to represent it as it is, which is useful when combined with a freer approach that’s important to me too. I studied fashion as my BA and painting as my MA.
Can you describe your work?
My works are combinations, transforming imaginary beings which are inspired by sea creatures, my own soft sculptures, and jewellery pieces as well as woolen yearns. My pieces, paintings or drawings, are mixed-media, combining drawing with coloured-pencil, acrylic on acetate or paper and then collaged onto the page, as well as fountain pen and felt-tip pen. What makes me excited is to give birth to creatures that didn’t exist before, and in the case of my paintings, they allude to abstracted spaces, combinations of forms, colours and shapes.
Do you like discussing your art form?
Yes mostly, except when it gets too detailed and too intellectual.
What was one of the first pieces you made that you were satisfied with?
I can’t honestly remember.
What kind of teenager were you?
I was quite easy, studied hard and also liked gentle partying. I’ve always liked having friends to laugh with, but things weren’t always easy, I did get bullied a lot.
How do you feel talking about your work?
It’s ok, I wouldn’t want to go on for hours though.
What drove you to this aesthetic?
I am not sure, the combination of the things that have brought me where I am today. My love for drawing and also for tactile experiences.
Who encouraged you to pursue your work?
My friends, my parents, my boyfriend, strangers sometimes! Everyone in my life is very supportive.
how did your childhood influence your artistic expression?
I was bathing in art from a young age, I did a lot of performing arts too, put on plays and so on. I used to set-up to draw all over the house, and in the summer we’d all walk around in our swimming costumes and draw in the garden with my dada.
What movies and music are impactful to you?
I love “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind” and more recently I really liked “Far from the Madding Crowd”. Music, all sorts but my big heroes are Björk and Cocorosie because they’re bold, uncompromising, and music flows through them, they are music.