Soumisha Dauthel’s education included courses in political science, literature, and art, while the vast majority of her current practice can be attributed to self-directed learning and experimentation with different media. Make sure to check out more at the links following this wonderfully insightful interview!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
After studying political science and a degree in Arts and Letters in Aix en Provence in the South of France, I was assistant of exhibitions at FRAC (Regional Fund of Contemporary Art) Champagne Ardenne in Reims. I was able to meet renowned artists and their works: such as Gilberto Zorio, Klaus Rinke as part of sculpture installation projects. I also met the painter Jean Michel Alberola during his clash at the George Pompidou Center in 1985. The painter François Rouan came to see my work in my studio. I also realized an artist residency (this was not so called) at the now deceased artist Grau Guarriga in 1983. And I was selected for a residency at the Casa Velasquez in Madrid in 1986 to continue my research.
These meetings, the contact with the works and their questions have been very instructive for me as an artist. If I was born in this outbreak of the 80s, however, my status as a woman artist placed me under the constraint of an environment that left him little room, not to mention the financial constraints. Which explains my withdrawal from artistic circles for a few years. In 2012, to continue my research work, I decided to confront the plastic questions of the current decade, I obtained a degree in plastic arts and entered the Research and Arts Master. For almost 10 years, I have found both my freedom, my full availability in a more conducive environment or at least more neutral to this status of female artist. So all my energy is now channeled into my artistic activity. I work and live in Paris, France.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I discovered the arts very young thanks to my mother who very early challenged my eyes by making me discover as well works of public recognition, as the so-called minor arts and in different cultures (the traditional and folk arts). I was born in the south of France of Russian-Arab parents and I spent my childhood and adolescence in the countryside of Aix en Provence. I was also initiated very early to the beauty of nature, landscapes …
This bi-cultivated education at the beginning of my life opened my eyes with references that were not Judeo-Christian, not always easy. I asked myself very early about some inconsistencies that we encountered in everyday life or on reflections of people that I thought were open. Curiosity, questioning and the search for understanding never left me.
What do you like most about working where you do?
The places where I prefer to work are the cities or spaces that I do not know, and preferably abroad. There is a kind of fusion that takes place between the energy of the place and the discovery of the city or the countryside where I stay.
There are friends who lend me their house or barn during their absence.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
It’s a complex question to answer it simply. But I will try.
The theme that I address globally is that of “living polyphony.” It is for me a set of things, of thoughts, of styles, having no common denominator which is gathered, ie. by bringing them closer to each other, constitute “another entity.” It is still confusing to express. It is only when I attended the symposiums initiated by the Institut du Tout-Monde that I find echoes in my thought on the question of identity in its widest sense. I’ve painted since the 90s, and my research questions the history of painting in connection with the problems of their respective times. These questions remain constant.
As far as my practice is concerned, it has changed over the past ten years. I was able to release this kind of protocol that I used to create a painting, a piece. Paint on canvas, draw a shape, build this shape with painted canvas elements. At the time the goal was to network all its fragments and play with the random fragments in the reconstruction of the work. Since then, I went on from a protocol that I imposed myself, in a “ritual.” That is to say, a more flexible process, which no longer aims to respect the protocol for the completion of a form, but rather the use of a process, a ritual that allows me to realize paintings that will have the shapes they want. I say “they will want” because the final form appears by realizing it. It is by the reconciliations of painted canvases, of successful or failed cuts, by the incongruity of the assembled colors that I try to propose paintings that have something to say to the viewer.
What is your process like?
There was the beginning of a long period of research that led me to invent a process of creation in the 1990s. In order to preserve a form of freedom in the act of painting, before the final realization of the work, I dissociate the moments of creation.
Preferably, I paint from spring until the end of the summer. I paint with great freedom of expression on canvas or very thick paper. Those are gestures of color posed, physical experiences of painting, it is very jubilant. At the end of the summer these works are stored with others, they become the future materials that will constitute the paintings. The other phase of creation is the more mental period, or the look will validate the coming together of some paintings between them. This is the most classic period in the stages of my work, that of the composition of the painting. I am looking for harmonious disharmony. And finally, when the assemblies are made a shape imposes itself by the peculiarity of the colors, the balance of forces between the masses, the true / false equilibrium. The encounter and the relation of the elements merge and propose their story echoing.
“It is this approach of the unpredictable that will guide the realization of a drawing, an engraving, an installation looking for” a new imaginary, this changing permanence. “(Édouard Glissant), writer and philosopher.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Another idea that I explore continuously is the “superposition of temporalities,” which can be translated by the questions, “What is it to be in the present? How do we live in our head and in our flesh, this present? Are we detached from our thoughts, our stories of life, the memory of peoples, women and men? Philosophical and spiritual questions transpire in each of my works. This idea is expressed by organic parts in their manufacture, by the manipulation of the pictorial material and by my assembly technique.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I do not have a day job attributed to my artistic work in particular. I have an activity as a visual arts teacher, and I like to teach the importance of artistic culture. The youth is very enriching by its spontaneity. Now, I do not think that any other professional activity is essential for me. On the other hand, going to visit exhibitions in galleries and museums, watching people go about their business, watching people live freely, daydreaming remains important for my imagination.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I have a lot of respect for artists in general, that they have chosen a path where self-questioning of their work is recurrent. It is not easy every day. I could name many artists whose work I appreciate. But those who could be my mothers and fathers, those to whom I always return when difficult artistic periods sadden my life, are Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Ellen Gallagher, Henri Matisse and Frank Stella.
I will add the artists of the French movement Supports / Surfaces that influenced my first period of research and the writings of Édouard Glissant (a philosopher, writer and poet), who helped me a lot in my many questions about identity in his philosophical approach.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
To believe in your life, and to remain sincere in your creation. Creation is part of life. We do not choose to be an artist, we are, or we are not. Only you, know it. 🙂
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
It is the notion of community that annoys me. It can be small by the multiplication of identical thoughts. I prefer sets of people who, in a moving way, marry ideas or do things. If you look at the history of artistic movements, their births imply their ends, otherwise it becomes dicta of artistic thought.
What is your studio like?
My studio is nothing special, it is a room in the apartment where I live with my family, which has a bay window overlooking trees. A little too small for my taste, but we adapt.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
Yes, I have a routine. I do not have schedules, I need a physical energy. I light up my space and I start with a podcast “The Viewers” on France culture, and I listen to music.
The rhythms of music have an influence on my brain, how to say, it helps me to concentrate and to distract myself to go to my imagination. Often I use a few chorus words of a song for the title of my painting. I really like the Anglo-American variety. Then, while listening, I start to prepare my work table, I stack pieces of paints and then I release the space that I would need, I take the scissors and cutters … and I change the type of music. I spend an average of 4 days a week in the studio; I work a lot and I like it.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Being a female artist is not always easy and it is for me, first of all, to accept my difference with other women and men. Then, it is to learn to live with this addiction to painting, to continue to create, to seek, to improve in the direction of deepening my pictorial work, whatever happens while achieving a balanced personal and family life.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
It was at the beginning of my career, a memorable exhibition that I realized at the Art Passages center in Troyes in 1985. I met the head of the art center to ask him to expose my work; he had visited my studio and he appreciated my work. His show schedule was saturated for at least a year. Seeing my impatience, he amicably he offered me to make his gallery available for a weekend. I realized for this exhibition an installation that invaded all the space of the center with the concept of the extension of the space of Art “in and outside the institution.” My work was exposed in the shop window, on t-shirts, and in the art center simultaneously.
A crazy job, both in the manufacture of artifact for the installation and in my efforts with textile factories of Aube in Champagne for the reproduction on T-shirt of one of my paintings which represented the imprint of my chest. I thank them again today for playing the game at the time, and without financial contribution. (The first patronage). This brief exhibition allowed me to meet new key personalities in the progression of my career.
What are you working on right now?
I have answered many calls for applications in several cities. I hope to receive other positive results. After my exhibition this summer in Chicago, at Woman Made Gallery, I work also for a future exhibition in Berlin, Germany, and I will participate this fall in a MACPARIS show where 10 of my recent paintings will be presented. I will keep my fingers crossed.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you so much YOUNG SPACE and thanks a lot to Kate Mothes 🙂