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In the workplace of

Alice Suret-Canale‎

The workplace is the sacred universe of the artist. It is where the magic happens, where the gems are created. Today, let’s have a look inside the artistic mind of Alice Suret-Canale, living in France.

‘I was born in Niort, a small town near the Atlantic coast of France in 1986, but after only a couple of years, my parents and I moved back to Paris where I grew up until the age of 15. I lived in a little street called the “rue des arts”, in a family building where also lived my aunt, my cousins, and great aunt and uncle, all of them being artists (painter, ceramist, medalist).

Since my very first years, my father made me paint with him in his studios. It was such fantastic playgrounds for the child I was! We made beautiful abstract paintings together, and I like to think that I did my best works, the most innocent and joyful ones, at the age of two.

Journey

As I grew up in a family where art occupies a significant place and in which many people have embraced an artistic career. So I had this possibility in mind for a long time. Things accelerated when I got pregnant with my son. The idea of ​​becoming a mom soon encouraged me to fulfil a desire that I had for a while to become a full-time painter. And as I had defended some time before my PhD thesis, I had the free field to start a new chapter in my professional life. I first studied classical literature in Poitiers, France, being passionate about ancient Greek, old manuscripts and translation. But after completing my master thesis, I went back to Paris to study computer graphics and digital art, until a PhD thesis that I defended in May 2018.

While studying in this area, I started working on some animated films and videogames, and co-directed with three friends five short films mixing different style in 3D and 2D animation (our collective name being La mécanique du plastique). Our films have been shown in many festivals around the world and won several awards. The opportunity to travel and present our films, to meet other directors and discover their works has been an extremely enriching and rewarding experience.

One quite rewarding experience was a painting residency I did in Corsica. The idea was to spend three weeks painting outdoors, from nature. It was an opportunity to develop a more figurative series and to concentrate on details. The vegetation around the town of Levie is quite rich. Full of character, it mixes lush and dense vegetation made of oaks, strawberry tree, moss and ferns; and huge granite rocks smoothed by time and sometimes assembled by men into formations. It forms a very dense and rich pictorial subject. I learned a lot there, and this was also my first solo show.

Styles, technique and materials

I work mainly with oil painting on canvas or wood. I’ve also been more and more interested in using reclaimed materials, wood boards or old linen sheets as support for painting (very interesting when you work on large size paintings as I do). My studio is located in an old factory near Paris, a collective art place called Le Préàvie, where I work alongside many other artists and craftspeople, and for everyone here, the spirit of material re-use holds an important place.

So to give you an overview of the main process ;

I hang my large raw linen sheet on the wall of my studio which is free at this time and start with a coat of primer (black or white gesso) to homogenize the surface and prevent the paint from being absorbed by the sheet. When the layer is homogeneous and dry, I start the first step of the painting process. At this stage, I work with acrylic and make an effort to stick to abstraction. I don’t know yet which painting I want to do, as I never do any preparatory work, nor sketches. I adjust the values, tones and colours until I get a composition that seems pretty solid to me. This is where the second part of the work begins, generally with oil and mediums. I try to clarify the patterns and figures which presented themselves to me, to direct them and integrate them into the pictorial spirit of the series on which I am working. I work on the drawing, here afoot, there a hand, sometimes a stomach or a face. At some point, it seems that nothing can be added or cut back to improve the whole, that’s where the painting is done.

As for the ideas I am currently exploring in my work, I would say I see the painting as a matrix. Within the frame, displayed as a firm border, I desire that alternative reality, a figurative one, would be able to emerge, relieved from our usual rules of space and time. Since two years, I have been working on this principle with the “Compressions” series. These paintings, from 5cm to 2m40, focus on the figure, the body and its relationship to intimacy. The underlying subject is gestation, establishing a link between the maternal gestation ‒pregnancy and the revolutions it produces in the body and the spirit of the future mother, and in the intimacy of the couple‒ and the pictorial gestation ‒movements and transformations of the painted patterns and figures. I’m also using animation to explore this subject, adding in my GIFs the constraint of time to the constraint of space, imprisoning my dancing characters in a never-ending loop.

Since the beginning of April 2020, I have been working on a new series of larger formats (from 2m x 2m) in my studio. This series is inspired by the amazing visual results obtained with Artificial Intelligence systems and Generative Adversarial Network, and in particular by the work of the artist Robbie Barrat and his series of “Nude portraits” generated from a large database of nude paintings.

Purpose, beliefs and lifestyle

Art is a social practice. A painting can’t have any meaning without someone to look at it. So my first desire and goal are that my paintings reach a large audience. As well as a writer’s only purpose is for his texts and books to be read, mine is for my paintings to be looked at: it is this fundamental interaction that results in the creation of a social bond. So the impact I hope my art to have is to connect me to someone else, to be a bridge to the audience. As wrote Delacroix, “A picture is nothing but a bridge between the soul of an artist and that of the spectator.” My goal is that beyond provoking pleasurable sensations, both visual and tactile, my painting would be the vehicle that sparks certain psychological reactions and produces feelings, thoughts and ideas; that is to say, social emotions.

To achieve these goals, I created a ritual. The ritual of my day is quite established. It starts by bringing my son to the nursery, then I go to my studio and work there until the evening; I always have a large format in progress that I am working on, and when it is finished I take it down to start another. After my time in the studio, I love spending time with my family, doing family stuff and looking at my little boy, being cute and all.’

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