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Rencontre avec : Alexia Chevrollier

After obtaining her DNSEP at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Art in Dijon (2012), the artist Alexia Chevrollier studied philosophy at the University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis (2014-16), then aesthetics at Paris-Sorbonne University (2016-18). Alexia Chevrollier has since mixed artistic practice and theoretical reflections. Meeting with a young plastic artist who "stages" the materials.

Muuuz: When I met you, I discovered paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, where there is always a question of materials. Can you tell us a bit about your eclectic practice?
Alexia Chevrollier: My work can be defined by the concept of movement. It is not frozen in time or in one and the same practice. I refuse to answer a technicality because I favor materials. I like to define myself as a director of materials rather than as a visual artist. In my works, I stage the materials as a director directs the bodies. I always try to reveal all the qualities of the materials.

To describe your creative process, you speak of a “derealization of matter”. What does that mean ?
I use the expression “derealization of matter” to describe my work around rust, which is both pictorial and sculptural. When you are a sculptor, you often use materials that must be durable, because there is a concept of elevation and construction. From this observation, I wondered how a robust material like metal could express itself differently, and I chose to deconstruct the very properties of matter by making it liquid. The “derealization of the material” thus makes it possible to divert the primary robustness of the metal.

How were your paintings born which “derealize matter”?
My desire to “derealize matter” comes from several paths of thought. The idea is first to reverse the inherent quality of a material. But there is also a bit of chance. One day, the iron oxide juices I kept in metal cans attacked their containers and spilled on the floor of my workshop. I then took leaves and scraps of canvas to mop up the liquid. The works from this fortuitous event are both metallic and organic. I have since developed this rust painting practice. I was also inspired by abandoned factories. I like being able to imagine the past lives of a place. Metal is very present in old factories, from lockers to electrical panels. In fallow factories, there are often rust streaks that evoke the passage of time. My paintings made with rust juice are pretenses of Corten steel, a self-patinated steel used by artist Richard Serra in his sculptures, but they are not really paintings. They are works of a sculptor rather than a painter. They evolve because they oxidize depending on the oxygen content and the humidity of the place. These paintings constantly react with their environment, which brings them once again to sculpture. Conversely, in my work of rust juice on free canvas, we are moving away from metal canvases similar to Corten steel plates. I like to paint these disembodied canvases on the floor in my workshop. By painting them on the floor, I don't put any distance between my body and the canvas. Once the canvas is dry, I stage it by hanging it on the wall, or by placing it on metal bars. I like to write the floor of my workshop in my canvas. The workshop is the hidden place of the artist, the support of all his mistakes and all his successes. I leave an imprint, that of my workshop, but also all of the workers and artists who worked in this place before me. I like to evoke the stories of the spaces lived in my paintings.

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In your work, the craftsman occupies a central place. Can you explain your approach to us?
The craftsman indeed occupies a very important place in my work. I am fascinated by artisans. I value collaboration with the craftsman because I refuse to be a sponsor of know-how. I am more interested in the reaction of the material than in the gesture of the craftsman. When I work with a craftsman, I ask him to get out of his controlled know-how by taking him towards positions of discomfort. I then become "choreographer" of his gestures.

What does this collective work mean to you?
This collective work is very important to me. I don't pretend to learn a new skill. I want to be surprised and remain quite naive in front of a subject. I like to lead the craftsman towards a ground which he does not know, a situation which he does not control. I hope that my intervention also marks the craftsmen.

What relationship do you have with the artisans with whom you collaborate? Do you consider them artists?
The craftsman is not at my service. We are both at the service of matter. I like the chance of meeting each craftsman. For example, when I started working with the master glassmaker Stéphane Pelletier from Atelier Gamil, there was an immediate bond. I also made many works with him, including Souffle, Uprising, The Breath of fountain, entropy et Lulu. A relationship of trust must exist between the craftsman and me for collaboration to be possible. All the stakes of my film Against Taylor on the work of a master coalman is to show the passage from construction to the deconstruction of matter through the gesture of the craftsman.
I think that the difference between the craftsman and the artist crystallizes around the commercial sphere. The artist is as much a producer as the craftsman, but the artist is undoubtedly a bad craftsman. The contemporary artist often explores different mediums but he does not necessarily master them, while the craftsman knows and masters a single skill very well. Some craftsmen have left a lasting mark on my career.

Why do materials fascinate you?
The materials tell stories. I have a very sincere relationship with them. In 2017, I realized Condition (structure), an ephemeral sculpture made up of a wooden structure on which was placed a small sculpture in raw earth. I play here on the balance between the robustness of the wooden elements and the small terracotta sculpture, but I am mainly interested in the stories of these materials. The structural fragments used in my work had been recovered by an architect in an old house to build a staircase. The architect loaned me these fragments of wood during my personal exhibition “La fabrique des possibilities. Raw landscapes ”at the Chapelle du Carmel in Chalon-sur-Saône in 2017. By staging these pieces of wood, I interact with the materials.

Some of your works are immersive, others are inscribed in space. What do you want to provoke in the viewer?
I'm still trying to speak to the viewer. In my last personal exhibition "At equal strength" at CRAC Champigny-sur-Marne in 2019, I chose to create a game between outside and inside to integrate the visitor into the space. I always take into account the body of the spectator. The work works in itself, but the viewer has its importance in the logic of the work. Over time, my sculptures and paintings evolve. If the visitor comes to confront my works several times, he can discover the visible transformations of my work, “infra-movements” perceptible over time. The viewer is at the center of my practice. In my works, I come to thwart the speed and the yield which are imposed on us by capitalist society by confronting the spectator to the rhythm of the material. I invite him to question himself. So much the better if the spectator is bored in front of my works because this off-time allows him to access another world. Today, taking the time has become an act of resistance because every minute is profitable.

In a recent text, you already tell the impact of confinement on your work. Can you tell us about it?
The current health crisis caused by the Covid-19 allowed me to test my artistic practice. With this spring 2020, humanity is forced to pause, and can then choose to reconnect to essential activities. During confinement, I decided to reflect on post-containment creation. How to create after the health crisis? How to adapt to the current situation? I imagined a space with several works, which visitors can caress. This future project would be both an invitation to recreate a bond and an invitation to produce a collective installation. Each visitor could come and modify my creations and introduce their own energy. I would like to produce interrelational works, and thus give my work a collective dimension. This installation would be my call to come out of individuality.

To learn more, visit the site of the artist Alexia Chevrollier.

Photographs: Portait, views of the exhibitions "At equal force" and "The factory of possibilities. Raw landscapes ”© Nicolas Briet, View of the studio © Marie Docher, Extract from the video Against Taylor, 2014-2017, film, 1h45 min © Alexia Chevrollier.

Léa Pagnier

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