A graduate of Fine Arts in Paris in 2009, the Franco-Danish artist Eva Nielsen creates enigmatic protean works. With her painted canvases, sometimes printed or screen-printed, she shakes up the codes of painting, mixes mediums and appeals to the viewer's imagination. Meet an inspired and inspiring painter.
Muuuz: Can you tell us about your journey?
Eva Nielsen: When I was young, I didn't want to be an artist. After a DEUG in Modern Letters and a master's degree in European History at the Sorbonne, I finally tried the Beaux-Arts de Paris and I was accepted. My entry to the Fine Arts was a decisive step in my journey. I loved my years there. I met my friends, very interesting artists who taught me as much as my teachers. Thanks to the Socrates grant, I studied at Central Saint Martins in 2008. This stay in London was very enriching. Then I quickly started working with galleries. Several artistic residencies in France and abroad have punctuated my career. I had the chance to go to Norway with the artist Mireille Blanc to work at LKV in 2012, then to Los Angeles with the painter Raphaël Barontini to take advantage of all the technical workshops of The Cabin in 2017. Group exhibitions have also marked my career. I like that my works are confronted with the creations of other artists.
What is your approach to painting?
In my painting, it is first of all a question of promoting hybridity, collage and multidisciplinarity. The canvas captures a part of a whole. I am very interested in the photographic image, and its truncated aspect. In photography as in painting, the artist captures a vision, which is necessarily fragmentary. The off-screen is just as interesting as the canvas. Technically, my painting is defined by superposition. I like, for example, to match a diffuse background with a clean line obtained by screen printing. The technique also goes hand in hand with the intellect. When I have an image in mind, I choose a specific technique to put it on the canvas. The technique thus flows from the idea. I love this meeting of the gesture with the spirit.
You are a painter, but also a photographer and screen printer. From painting to screen printing, what is your creative process?
My creation process is not defined. There is always a risk taking, which is also very exciting. Right now, I'm mixing all the techniques. I paint my canvas, I put it in a printer and I screen print it. I also get lost in the stages, from collage to overprinting. The daily experimentation of the workshop brings its share of hazards. It is important to see the accident and keep it. When I was a student, I objected to the accident. Today, on the contrary, I cherish the unexpected. The most complete art is undoubtedly that where the artist manages to regulate the improvisations to incorporate them completely into the creative process. Thus, the workshop session is complex and interesting. Sometimes I throw my canvases. I like this confident gesture, which reveals a distancing of the act of creation. I remain convinced that the ego for the ego is quite harmful, because the desire to create must prevail. My work brings together multiple references. Art is a meeting between different fields. I am fascinated by Black Mountain College, an American humanist university which was marked by the precepts of Josef and Anni Albers. With the couple's arrival in the United States in the early 1930s, Black Mountain College became an avant-garde school, where all artistic disciplines were taught. I love all creations. I could not confine myself to a single medium.
Many of your works are the result of a reflection on urban space. Where does this fascination for landscapes come from?
I have lived and worked in the suburbs for ten years. The suburbs inspire me a lot. Peri-urban landscapes are always plural. They are constantly evolving. In the suburbs, I like the alternation between very constructed landscapes and abandoned places such as fallow quarries. In Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, for example, all stages of urbanization are visible. As soon as I travel, I take public transport and I visit the suburbs, whether in Berlin or New York. I like to discover how a city evolves. The suburbs are places that are themselves collages, oxymorons. I like that the space is never defined. I paint possible places, which are never frozen. I am neither a librarian nor a geographer. The places I paint are therefore not really real.
What relationship do you have with architecture?
My relationship with architecture is empirical. I live it, I see it, I document it, I paint it. I am fascinated by the house, but also by the shelter as Louise Bourgeois defined it. Right after the subprime mortgage crisis, I went on a road trip to Detroit and discovered all the abandoned housing, all of these dwellings that lose their primary value of living space. The architecture is both fabulous and fragile, because it has its own end in itself. When I paint architectures, it is not the building itself that interests me, but the relationship that man has with him. I am also passionate about making models. When I was ten years old, I broke my leg. After the incident, I had to sit still for a year. One day my father gave me a model. I then spent my recovery making tons of models.
Which artists inspire you? Why ?
I am influenced by many personalities. I really like romantic painters like Caspar David Friedrich, who leaves a lot of room for the viewer in his paintings. I myself try to substitute my eyes for those of the viewer. I hope that the viewer can give free rein to his imagination. This is found in surrealist artists. Man Ray appeals to me a lot because he perfectly embodies modernity. I am also inspired by several modern and contemporary artists. I love Paul Cézanne, Paul Klee, Ed Ruscha, Georgia O'Keeffe, Lee Lozano or even Helen Frankenthaler. But I am also fascinated by photography and architecture. I am a fan of the poetic shots taken by Luigi Ghirri and the complex architectures imagined by Zaha Hadid.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am working on three series. In a series, I paint anthropomorphic architectures, that is to say architectures that take on a human morphology. It was during a stay in Sibiu in Romania that I discovered these surprising buildings. I also reflect on the idea of a disturbed image, which is moreover perfectly illustrated by photography Space portrait by Lee Miller. In another series, I envision architectures as breakthroughs in the horizon, orbits through which we try to guess part of the landscape. I like to work on several series simultaneously so that I can go from one to the other without getting bored.
To learn more, visit the artist Eva Nielsen's website et the Galerie Jousse Entreprise website.
Visuals: Portrait © Vincent Ferrane, Works © Eva Nielsen