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Joelle griMo

Who are you?

I would rather say : how many are you !

It‘s easy actually: I am an artist. I paint, I draw, and I show my work.

This is what brings coherence to all the facets of my personality, this is where my life choices brought me after a long maturation. It is a direction so easy to lose because of spurious reasons, it's the direction I keep thanks to everyday work.


What is your most marked characteristic?

It might be the ever-present energy of my pieces. It is an evolutive energy : in my firsts paintings, it mainly was anger and challenge. It then became more of a powerful and rhythmic energy, to finally head to more sensuality recently. It isn't that easy to keep track, even for myself, as my drawings are the reflection of my inwardness.  


Why drawing and painting?  

It is not my initial training, I have a scientific background. I have of course always drawn, colored, every time I had the opportunity I took classes to enhance my technique to what seemed to be for everyone around me a hobby. Oddly enough, my scientific field – math - is a key part of the answer. I believe math is an art, even though I am fully aware most people don't! But math definitely was a starting point of my art, and not only because it helped me with perspectives, proportions, geometrical construction and so on... It is more fundamental than that : for years my spirit got used to applying abstract to describe reality, thanks to mathematical and formal theories. This is exactly my ambition, but math wasn't the way for me to be fulfilled. I didn't quite catch that right away, but on a day of 2008, I was cornered. I had wandered into a live model workshop, and when I left with a dozen of charcoal sketches, something actually real I could show to anyone, I felt an inner joy, and that hadn't happened in a long time. This is at this very moment I decided to focus on drawing, and a few months later, painting.

Describe your creative process

I mentioned abstract, and we all know that quote from Magritte “ceci n'est pas une pipe”, which ironically reminds us that the path from the subject to the picture necessarily implies an act of abstraction. In my case I would rather talk about figurative abstraction, as my starting point always is something real that catches my eye and touches me. It inspires me and becomes my project. I couldn't really explain why I feel an emotion at this very moment nor why I have the need to render this vision in my own way. It can be rhythm, contrasts, quite often the graphic aspect of what I see, some kind encrypted writing... The image needs to be printed in my spirit and I have to make it mine before I can express it. This process may be quite fast and end up in a more or less rich sketch in minutes, or it may need a long maturation period, especially when it implies a landscape seen from far away. In this case, I sometimes need to roam in the area for weeks, find ploys to get close, and finally catch the angle that will allow me to build an interesting construction. Several sketches will be necessary before I actually paint anything on a canvas...


Do you have a preferred medium?

When I started drawing in a live models workshop on a regular basis, I fell in love with charcoal right away. I quickly got myself large sticks so I could structure my sketches with a few essential lines. I also used them outside to draw landscapes. But Chinese ink is by far my favorite, due to its rendition. Even though it's less easy to use, sometimes impractical. About that, here is an anecdote : I had settled in a pine forest in order to draw, and I had put on the ground a small recipient of ink. In a matter of minutes, hundreds of large ants arrived to drink it, and I had to pack up when they started crawling on my legs...

As far as colors are concerned, before I took oil painting classes, I had the chance to use oil pastels and I really like it, especially on small pieces. Yet I find the brightness of soft pastels  really superior, but the only way I manage to use them satisfactorily is by combining them with another technique, ink or acrylic for instance.

For larger pieces, I had the chance to discover the instruction of the visual artist Joseph Alessandri (he passed away since). He introduced me to acrylic painting, and his approach really opened up horizons for me. I also discovered how to include collages and prints in an acrylic sketch, and later I had the desire to mix Chinese ink and acrylic : bottom line is, these are my two favorite mediums.

Describe your workspace

My workshop is an outbuilding of my house, located in a lovely village in Provence, Maussane-les-Alpilles. It's a small place continuously cluttered, especially in winter as I use it as a greenhouse for my ornamental plants. Light isn't really good either, that’s why eventually I barely work there, It's more of a storage, for both my paintings and my equipment. So where do I work mostly? Well, actually... in my bathroom for instance: I often start the day with a quick self-portrait drawn in front of the mirror, I would use the soap dish and the sink to dilute walnut stain or Bétadine, and it's easy to use water on my calligraphy brush to obtain a wash effect. My bed also acts as a training field for small sketches in the morning, specially when I use pastels as with them, there will be no splashing on the sheets! For larger pieces, I am lucky I have a garden and a patio, this is where I actually work the most. I can put my canvas on the floor, I have no fear experimenting new techniques such as spraying or dripping, and this is where I get enough room to have a general overview of my “assemblies” : It's a system I use to overcome the issues of storage and transport of the largest pieces, by juxtaposing a number of smaller pieces to create a larger one. Eventually, the whole property is my workshop!


The list would not be complete if I didn't mention all the places where I can pull out my pens and my sketchpad in an inspiring environment! I take ownership of any place by drawing one or two sketches. These precious moments give a all new dimension to my gateways.


Does working in Provence have an influence on your practice?

Let's journey back a little : I was very lucky, thanks to my former life, to live on four different continents, to travel to many countries, and to discover many cultures. It obviously influenced my aesthetic choices, and is reflected in my work, one way or another.

As far as Provence is concerned, I came back here in the late 1990's, nowhere else have I seen a sky of such an intense blue! Well, maybe from the top of a mountain, in the Andes for instance. It is no coincidence if great painters like Cézanne, Van Gogh or De Staël, just to name a few, were inspired by the light of this region. Colors are saturated, contrasts are violent, and necessarily, that will influence the palette which will be used. Vocations will be encouraged, painters as well as exhibition places are legion, and very often crowded. The cultural program, in any sector, is quite rich, particularly during summer. May it be Arles, Avignon, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence etc., the spectrum of events, modest or prestigious, is always vast. It is an important source of inspiration that makes me like even more the location I live and work in.

Translated from french by M. Mallein

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