Inès Longevial is a painter and illustrator based in Paris. She started drawing at a very young age and has kept doing so until now. Her concept of femininity “can’t be locked in a box”, as she explains, but we see a lot of poetry in her ideals, since there is this fearless ingenuity and willingness to let unexpected elements intermingle, reflecting beauty and romanticism in canvases that are somehow provocative.
Originally from the South West of France but with some members of her family living in the Basque Country, she’s been close to Spanish culture: Almodóvar’s colourful world of or Picasso’s lines are among her main influences. Floral motives are also part of her bucolic inspiration. Inès spent most of her childhood “in the little house in the prairie”, so nature is another main theme in her work. “We probably paint what we know best”, she says.
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Inès, you started drawing and painting at a very young age. Do you remember why you started? And the first thing you painted/draw?
As far back as I can remember I’ve always drawn. I didn’t really start for a specific reason, that’s just what I wanted to do no matter what time of day or where I was. I remember a dancer I drew, but most often it was portraits.
Can you tell us more about your background? What’s the path you’ve followed until getting where you are now?
When I was sixteen years old, I went to boarding school to learn applied arts. It was probably during these three years that I learned the most – it was very intense. Since then, I’ve continued to go beyond hardships and tried to keep my enthusiasm by thinking about painting every day.
You are originally from the South West of France, but your work has a marked Spanish influence. When did you discover this personal world?
My parents live in the Basque Country (part of Spain) and I have some more Spanish family. I’m also influenced by how important women are within the Spanish family structure.
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When scrolling through your Instagram, I’ve spotted some pictures of your working process. You first delineate the different sections or parts of the face you’re going to portray. How much time does it take to do a painting from beginning to end? Is there room for improvisation?
Of course there is! It’s pretty hard to describe the process because it’s different every time. I try not to do what I've done before; I’m going where I’ve never been.
I know definitions can be limiting, but how would you describe your work? What’s your identity as an artist?
Indeed, I also think that the description of one’s own work may be really limited. Is it really up to me to analyse what I'm doing? Aren’t we a little bit tired of self-promotion? What separates the truth from the fantasy if I talk or think about my own work? I think that describing and paraphrasing my own work takes away all the poetry.
Your eye is sometimes provocative but in a very subtle way. What do you think about expressing visceral or intense emotions?
Oh, I’m really glad you found this in my work, it’s really a part of me – and yet we don’t always notice. What people describe as calm joy often takes over. I think we can’t separate a work from the human who makes it so these feelings and intense emotions are always there. What’s interesting is how it all comes out.
“I think that describing and paraphrasing my own work takes away all the poetry.”
Femininity and nature are two key themes in your paintings. What is your idea of femininity? Which is your message?
I have the impression that we always show the same patterns. Femininity is constantly locked in two separate boxes: it’s either sexy and powerful or trashy and ugly. Women’s strength and virility are linked to the latter, and subtlety and poetry to the first one. I don’t think I paint my ideal but rather what I feel, and I hope we can’t put that in a box. I wish we could approach the body like we do with emotions or nature: without sacralisation or fetishism.
Actually, most of your paintings (if not all) portray women. What is it about the feminine figure that attracts you so much? And who are the subjects in your pieces?
Being a woman is central to my work. Also, we probably paint what we know best.
Is it our impression or do your illustrations have some kind of romanticism?
Yes, probably. Nature is very present in my work as well as loneliness, and perhaps even the cult of the self and the expression of feelings of passions.
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Someone said Art is a way to fight against emptiness. What does it mean for you? Do you use it to fill something you lack?
Since I’ve always been drawing, I think so, of course. And that’s why making sense of my art by myself is perhaps a little paradoxical.
We can see some reminiscences of Picasso and Almodóvar in colours, shapes and this idea of expressing both tender and strong feelings. Who else inspires you?
At the moment, I’m very inspired by a series by Georgia O'Keefe on architecture, with its tight framing focusing on a small part of the building/city, as if by eliminating and selecting it we could get to the real meaning of things. Also, I’ve always been very inspired by Hitchcock. The end of North by Northwest is really beautiful: all those stony tones/nuances and the vermilion red suit that wiggles in the middle obsesses me. My inspirations vary according to the moments and are constantly changing, just like everyone.
You’ve recently exhibited in Los Angeles and are about to have a show in Paris, too. Where else will we see your work during the year? Are you working on other projects besides your canvases?
My solo show Je plors comme je ris is opening on March 13 at Galerie M in Toulouse. I have another one soon taking place in the Basque Country (Guéthary), near the beach. And in autumn, in San Francisco. I’m really looking forward to all of them.
The exhibition Je plors comme je ris by Inès Longevial will inaugurate on March 13 at Galerie M, 29 rue Bouquières, Toulouse.
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