Gabrielle, how do you define yourself: designer or artist? The contemporary world is full of «artists». I’m suspicious about the self qualification of being an artist or not. I’d rather use the term artisan, because it contains the idea of manual effort and humbleness and of course, the heritage. Going above heritage carries the fact that you have experimented with academic study. The gambling must improve this fantastic heritage and turn it into a personal creation.
Who are your favorite artists? I have a lot ! I like Camille Claudel so much: her personality, her art, and what her story tells us, over time. But more than the whole work of one artist, there are specific pieces that I love most of all, like the Antonello Da Messina «Madonna col bambino», or Bonnard’s «L’enfant au pâté de sable», Mary Cassatt kids representation, Andrew Wyeth’s «Christina’s World», and yet Gauguin’s and nudes… Jean Dubuffet has created a huge collection which he called Art Brut. His museum in Lausanne shows the work of many artists considered as mentally ill. Most of them were admitted in hospital or psychiatric institutions. The only way to survive was to creat. No problems, no economic problems: just a matter of life. I was profoundly touched by this vision of art, and this creation full of energy and power.
What related areas of art do you draw inspiration from? Photography, cinema, sculpture, classical painters, contemporary artists, comics: I draw my inspiration in every expression of creation, not only art. They are unlimited. Starting from everything around me, and all the images, colors, textures and shapes accumulated on my retinas since I was little.
Please tell us about your love of textures, your textures are simply amazing! Thank you! I think I wanted to leave a trace that people could touch and feel at the same time. I just wanted to reproduce elements of nature onto a wall, like a natural prolongation. Not very modest…
Gabrielle, have you changed your profession? How did it happen? The first part of my working life was cinema. I was passionate and I had really fascinating studies and field applications.
I was spending my life dealing and working with artists and creators, without thinking that one day it could be me. I needed to get my hands dirty! At the age of 33, after my first child, I started to rethink things. How to combine my love for artistic creation and earn enough money for a family life? As a kid I couldn’t stop drawing and painting. After a huge investigation in many spheres of creation, I went back to school in the deco painting department: everything about patrimony and heritage, the art of faux, wood and marble, patinas, perspective, panoramic… The teachers were great and I was very motivated. After a few years I tried to explore a more personal way.
Tell us about how and where you have been working recently? Those last few months I had the chance to work in a XVIIIth century apartment in Quai d’Anjou, in Paris. The owner, who was someone I had known a long time ago in my first career, contacted me to work on the shutters: 12 original wood pieces 4 meters high! My idea was to put copper leaves all over the surface, and with a dark patina finish. He liked the idea and entrusted me to take care of the whole apartment. Almost 10 months project! I had a great artistic adventure with the architect and the owner, made of trust and experimentation.
I’m currently launching my second wallpaper collection – the domino, inspired from Japan: each piece is unique, made by hand. The pattern is engraved on a plate transferred onto pieces of Japanese paper. The strip of paper is unusual because instead of a long one I propose small square or rectangular pieces (40x40cm) like in the XVIIIth century in Europe when high largeness of paper didn’t exist. It’s like a painting composition.
What stage in your work do you like more? Each stage is interesting. From conception to application. Every doubt and question. The practicability of something you have dreamt of. And when it’s not realizable and you have to change your mind or adapt the project. Sometimes for the best…
I think that «accidents» are very interesting in the course of conception and the experimentation.
Like in the science area, when it turns into something totally different, but it’s a great find: the serendipity.
More prosaically: to finish when work is over: it’s always a thrilling moment!
Has your career been going along the planned path or is it more spontaneous?
It is spontaneous. I tame doing the same work over projects. When you paint a sky once, you’re considered as the sky person !
But always experimenting new things is a big part of my interest. I have a studio on the other part of my small and hidden garden, it’s my «Ali Baba’s cave», my laboratory where I could work day and night to get new things out.
Did your contacts with specific people play a big role in the development of your career? Yes, a team of 2 architects based in Paris, Toro & Liautard who trusted me and gave me carte blanche : they are independent and very audacious. And of course I don’t forget Jérôme Vincon, great architect, designer and artist. He has been a wonderful partner for the Anjou project. We both hope that this wonderful flat will make the news !
Did you have a stage in your life, when it seems that nobody around you believes in your talent and your creativity in general? What advice will you give to those, who are experiencing it now? I might have experienced this kind of defiance but mostly in the beginning of my new career. In every field you have people saying that everything is blocked, already full of talented people who can’t find work… The more I was discouraged by these people the bigger my desire was. One other’s experience is a good and careful learning but one has to take his own chance and invent his proper way.
Tell us how you got your first creative orders? Before working for myself, I have learned and worked at others decorator’s and designer’s companies. I have been entrusted for great missions: I was sent to Japan, Switzerland, Monaco…
What do you regret that you haven’t done in your creativity and career? Maybe to get earlier in this field? At the same time I know that my former professional life has been more than useful to feed this one. All the fields are connected. The most difficult part is to find the link.
Have you ever had a fear that you wouldn’t get orders? Yes of course! I guess that’s the fear of every independent worker. I try not to get myself overwhelmed by pessimistic ideas. Hopefully, my studio is always welcoming and experiencing new stuff is what I like the most. The more I’m looking for new stuff in my studio, the better seller I’m.
How did your collaboration with Chanel, Dior, Bulgari happen? I was working for a studio that held those clients. From time to time I work for photographers who need painted backgrounds for these brands. I like to work in different spheres : private residencies, photoshoots, theater: the constraints are different, and so it is the way to work, whether it’s for a permanent result or a temporary effect.
Who would you like to work with? I would naturally quote japanese artists and architects. In 2018 the Fondation Cartier gave a exhibition of Junya Ishigama, a young archiect. The name was «Freeing arichiecture» and it has been a very profound moment of consciousness. He showed how to rethink his practicing of arhitecture according to environment and needs of human context. Not only architecture dreams but being modest and learning how to adapt himself. Porosity between inside and outside. Attention and real interest in children’s world for its huge imagination, its freedom of expression. His universe is so delicate and oniric. I’ve never seen something like that before. I admire this philosophy and I wish that some connections between my work and this one could be found.
I would love to work with the japanese architect Kengo Kuma. He knows how to establish a beautiful relationship with the outside world. I had once the opportunity to work in a private residence conceived by him, but we have never crossed each other. I love the way he’s mixing tradition and modernity.
The medium of paper could be the link. Paper is natural, transparent, delicate and the possibilities of working on it are limitless. It’s a great medium.
Gabrielle, who is the genius decorator among your contemporaries or predecessors for you? I would pick a cinema person, because it was my first access in the esthetic language. The first name that jumps in mind is Alexandre Trauner born in the beginning of the 20th century. He was a Hungarian painter and photographer before being a famous decorator. He started working in France with the most famous movie directors, participating in this great invention of the cinema period, mixed with painting and photography.
His work was considered as «poetico realistic», and he made one of the most beautiful movie sets that became classic. His drawings suggest the world of childhood. I have been interested in his work since I was very young, at the beginning through his drawings and pictures and then his movies : «Les enfants du paradis» had a big crush, because it contained all the emotions and feelings that were familiar to me, that I could sense unconsciously, as a little girl. It is obviously due to the great actors and scenario but held by such a special atmosphere of how the places were shown carried by the set and the light. He was asked a few words in conclusion to his whole international career : «long life to photography!» He was a great illusionist.
If you met him, what would you ask him about? I wouldn’t dare to open my mouth;)