Les Petits Bonheurs - Lucie de Syracuse
Les Petits Bonheurs series is back and I am excited to introduce you to this weeks artist, Lucie de Syracuse, whose work I discovered when I visited the wonderful Avignon boutique, Les Plumes de Paon.
I am always drawn to the globe de mariages (and funeraille) which you see less and less often at the brocante so I naturally gravitated to Lucies work when I visited Les Plumes de Paon in Avignon. But it is only on closer inspection that you see that these are not your typical globes and I found myself chuckling into the convex glass of her work. Wickedly dark, humourous, intelligent and with a wonderful combination of flea market finds and found objects - I knew I had to reach out and find out more about the maker.
Before you begin....I do recommend that you press play. Lucie sent me one of her own music compositions, Berlin, and I have been playing it on loop. I am listening to it now as I create her portrait and I think it is just a perfect accompaniment to her answers.
Lucie de Syracuse was born in 1981. She initially studied contemporary literature and developed a particular fondness for the 19th century literature of Gerard de Nerval and Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, whose work often speaks of rebellion and ecstasy. Through her studies she discovered the world of romantic literature, books adorned with grotesque and fantastical drawings from such rare illustrators as Johannot and Nanteuil and these works continue to inspire her art work today.
Lucie is a passionate flea market truffler. She rummages in basements, attics, antiques markets and junk shops where she is drawn to all the items seemingly unwanted, and found unworthy of the traditional antiquaire. In particular, Lucie is drawn to broken, bizarre toys, dried flowers and ephemera from the past that comes together to create her unusual work.
She builds - in her own words "inside of bulging glass frames, poetically strange pieces. A strange familiar, map of a forgotten journey, one which puts the eye in the middle of a fantastical game. Frames where unsettling, dark powers are at work; where fragments and broken pieces aim to question the splitting of our thought, of our memory. Frames where the sublime and the grotesque meet up in all the spaces left open to imagination."
About her path to becoming the artist she is today:
"I've never been to art school, I studied French literature for six years at University, with a focus on black romantism and its many influences on 19th century painters, illustrators and etchers. I was been hugely in inspired by the symbolists painters such as Gustave Moreau and his tatooed Salomé, true figure of the femme fatale, and the pre-raphaelites, especially John Waterhouse. The emotion, the intriguing beauty of these women overwhelmed me.
I have always loved drawing and sketching in order to memorise and through my studies I learnt the skill of observing."
"It was while studying the writing of Gerard de Nerval, Charles Nodier and ETA Hoffmann that I found out about Tony Johannot and Celestin Nauteuil's work, those two illustrators produced drawings for many of the 19th century authors both French and foreign. One particular illustrator who hugely inspires me is Johannot, and his work on the first French translation of 'The Tales of Hoffman'. It's fascinating because he had both a very 'classical' pen and one for the grotesque as well, a bit like in the Goya's Caprices.
Nauteuil's work borrows from the fantasy world, haunted by images of witches, owls, enchanted vegetation, gracious figures and grotesques masks. It's rather like a comic book illustration, where each of his drawings is separated not by straight lines but by a multitude of twigs which grow around each of them."
On her love for antique, vintage and found objects:
"I've always had a taste for vintage clothes, old radios, and old bands since I was thirteen years old. I used to keep everything I found in the street, from vintage psychedelic suitcases to sailors pictures, books, vinyl records, pieces of fabric. I also kept little hideous vitrines where I created little vignettes using my treasures.
I was really made aware of my collecting habits about 5 years ago, at the time I was living in the heart of the St Michel area where every morning around 6am, I would head out to gather objects at the flea market. When I later moved house - it was then that I really started to work with all these found objects."
Do you remember the first item you found at the flea market that you really fell hard for?
"Yes, I was in the Lot-et-Garonne, and I bought a very odd object, I had taken it in my hands, was about to put it back and walk off but this tiny "globe", by that I mean a domed-glass-frame, stayed in the palm of my hand, I was fascinated. Inside I could see some moss, a post card of Lourdes, the back of the frame was all crinkled and sodden. It was 6 years ago, I kept it for a year before opening it. Another find that I still remember clearly was a very damaged painting of Salomé holding the head of St Jean Baptiste's in his hands.
There's a painting picturing two women on a river bank, there's a child and his dog, far off are the fishermen on their frail boats, everywhere are the trees, lots of vegetation and a monument with an unreadable latin mark. I get caught by the colour harmony, the blue, the old pink, the green and the shining light."
Is there anything that you just can't imagine parting with, a piece of jewellery, a painting, a photograph, a piece of antique textile or a special globe?
"I actually keep two of my very first "globe" creations, they were made straight at the very begining. I dont want to let them go because they are the witnesses of the begining of my work .
Where Lucie does her making:
"I don't have a workshop, in the true meaning of a dedicated room for work, I work in my living-room which after all the space my collections take up - doesn't leave much room for a living-room."
"I have objects exposed on shelves, in little 'vitrines' or displays or hanging on the walls, in drawers, which I actually tend to forget when they're in drawers, basically they're all around me."
On her creative process:
"While gathering pieces , I don't look for a special theme because you never find what you're looking for, the objects find me, I join the dots later, at the workshop."
"Sometimes, I start to work straight away with some pieces, others I keep two - three years before starting anything."
Chez Lucie - At home with Lucie:
"The place I am happiest is always when I am in my living-room/workshop, painting, deep into music, otherwise under my sheets where I like to doze."
"My favourite spot is the table in front of my living-room window, a space full of light and open to the banana trees of the garden, the cat often keeps me company there."
"As I was studying I started collecting antique books from the 19th century with beautiful etchings and lovely bindings, it's still a great aesthetic pleasure to leaf through them, they are the secret asylum of my imagination."
On what inspires her:
Writers, musicians and artists including: Christian Bobin, Frédéric Clément, Félicien Rhops, Fernand Khnopff, Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Adolph Mossa, Arthur Rackham, Niki de St Phalle, Odilon Redon, Magritte, Ernest Pignon Ernest, Tinguely, Boltanski, Chagall, Björk, Blur, T-Rex,The Kinks, Elliot Smith, Julien Pras, Bigott, Leon Newars and the Ghost Band, the Black Keys...
I often listen to music while working.
On creative block and working through it:
"When I stumble across something , I play with my cat, I play the piano, I do something else and then I get back at it. Usually it works."
On running a creative business:
"I'd rather collect from flea-markets, yard-sales, and antiques fairs. Strolling and looking is a very important part of the process. This is where my work take roots.
I sell my work through the artshows I attend to throughout the year. Lately I had an exhibition at the Musée de la Création Franche, in Bègles. I also sell online, and of course I have a few pieces in a shop in Avignon called « Les Plumes du Paon ».