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Garance Vallée

Interview by Anna-Giulia Caradeuc
Photography courtesy of Garance Vallée

* Originally published in Issue No. 6 / SS2020

I came across Garance Vallée’s work on Instagram a few years ago. It was her drawings and paintings that caught my eye first: surreal combinations of shapes and objects – chairs and amphoras mainly – recalling the feeling one has when sporadically remembering clues from a dream they had the night before, where everything is a little familiar and a little alien, too.

Through time, Garance – who completed a Master’s Degree in architecture and scenography – expanded her practice to sculptural work, furniture and interior design, as well as scenography, all of which imbued with the same joie de vivre and romanticism that characterize her.

Growing up in an artistic family in Paris – her father is acclaimed street-artist Kriki and her mother is an art history academic – Garance has cultivated from a very young age an insatiable thirst for knowledge and experimentation. It is not surprising that her artistic practice knows no boundaries between mediums and aesthetic references: she artfully mixes Memphis with Ancient Rome, brutalist structures with primitive architecture.

The world she created conveys a certain ingenuity and poetry, and through the versatility of her practice, she was brought to collaborate with some of the most esteemed names in fashion and design, propelling her at the forefront of Paris’ creative renouveau alongside artists Inès Longevial, Pierre Marie or Nicolas Lefebvre.

Anna-Giulia Caradeuc (AGC) — You are a multi-media artist working across illustration, architecture, sculpture, scenography, furniture design, jewelry. What is the main thread that runs throughout your practice?

Garance Vallée (GV) — Unlike a solid material you can only put in one box, I think of myself more like a liquid that can spread a little bit in a lot of different boxes and keep a connection with all of them. I just try to create bridges between worlds. Even if I exhibit my drawings as finished objects, it’s also always kind of the beginning of another project. With every drawing or painting I think of the impossible space like a trompe l’oeil. All artistic currents inspire me and I like to create bridges between styles,
putting a modernist chair with a Memphis shelf, some futuristic vases, Antique structures and Brutalist forms in an old African mud hut. I like to tell stories in accordance with the room I draw or design for, as if the space was a living thing itself. I like to use everything, I’m not locked into one technique and for me, experimentation is primal. I like it all: testing things, seeing when they don’t work, trying and trying again, and sometimes trying something once, succeeding, and never being able to recreate it again.

As part of my architecture studies, I’m currently receiving training in scenography which helped me find my way of presenting my world, stage my drawings and objects. Every staging of a drawing becomes an installation itself. I love working with a lot of different materials, I like feeling them, modeling, having a real contact with the textures that I use. What excites me most is bringing my drawings to life, to go from 2D to 3D.

AGC — Both your parents are artists and you had an artistic upbringing – do you recall one experience or moment that made you realize that you also wanted to make art the center of your life?

GV — Art has always been the center of my life since being inside my mother’s womb, and I started to understand that life as I was growing up. I don’t know if there was a “moment.” I think it was more of a long journey, and something growing up inside me which I needed to express. It is after my architecture studies that I found the way I wanted to exteriorize my ideas.

AGC — How has your artistic background informed your practice
and creative process?

GV — I think I get a closer connection with the Human, and get the conscience that we build for the human kind and it is something that we sometimes forget in a dehumanized society. While all the theory and rules I learned from my studies are part of me, I have also accepted that I can deconstruct everything that I have learned, and so I started to play with these rules and create my own vision of life.

I grew up in an artistic family so I don’t think I can point out only two or three references. I think it is a mix of many words, pictures, colors, pieces of music that I absorbed and digested that made me who I am now, and I hope I never stop assimilating from the world around me.

AGC — Your work is often right on the cusp between realism and fantasy, balancing organic life and rigid shapes. What kind of experience do you want to create for people who view your work and visit your spaces?

GV — I often consider my drawings as a step towards object design, as if everything I drew was destined to be built someday. I like the fact that I constantly create bridges between painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture. I would like to invoke in someone a way of discovering the architecture with their body and with their senses, rather than just with their eyes and through esthetics.

AGC — You count names such as Missoni, Maison Martin Margiela, ELITIS, Le Bon Marché, say hi to_, Vogue, Milk Décoration Magazine among your prestigious list of collaborators. What are your favorite projects to work on and why?

GV — I can speak about a turning point in my career: Milan Design Week 2018. It was a true revelation for me. I worked for Strategic Footprints, an international public relations and brand consulting firm. The founder, Martina Gamboni, pushed me and entirely trusted me. She gave me a carte blanche to create a fully-designed space that would act as her meeting room. I decided to create a space based on my utopic drawing and convert
it to a habitable room. I presented Terra, an immersive in-situ installation which was the transcription of a drawing of my utopian interiors. The challenge was precisely to create a living space from a 2D drawing based on false perspectives. Thus, Terra was born between the trompe-l’oeil on the walls to recreate depth and furniture painted by hand, as if we were entering a canvas. It was an interpretation of the cradle of humanity and its experience of Mother Earth’s matters. The interior was fully made by hand, from the painted wall to the wooden furniture, the concrete objects and the designed carpet. The objects were made with layers of poured-in concrete, plaster, and natural stone pigments as coloring. I use this particular experimentation process to represent the strata from the past and future of Mother Earth’s matters and sedimentary rock. Through experimentation, the objects seem to come out of the Earth, representing unseen landscapes.

AGC — In your works, there are a lot of references to the Mediterranean,
Ancient Greece and antique mythology. I am particularly thinking of the recurring presence of amphoras in your paintings and sculptural works, or the myth of Cybele, Mother of the Gods, which inspired your solo show at Swing Design Gallery in Benevento, IT last year. What do you find particularly compelling in that time and place in history?

GV — My work is naturally anchored in a cultural past, linked to my architecture studies and the constructive theories of Antiquity, from Greece to Egypt, that laid the foundations of geometry, architecture and technical drawing. This cultural past is the source of a lot of my works, but I also combine it with recent and modernist references. Not to forget the modern medium, as I use digital tools to create my art in a contemporary era.

AGC — Your husband is multi-disciplinary artist Franck Pellegrino with whom you share a studio space. What is your space setup? Do your works collide at all?

GV — We have a big studio in the center of Paris that we share with two of our artist friends, lettering artist TYRSA and graphic designer JIMBO. We work together as a family and we all deeply care about each other’s work. This place is all about sharing and embracing our passions. With my husband Franck we work side by side, we push ourselves together and sometimes we create bridges between our relative fields and that is when the magic happens hahaha!

AGC – This is a special issue of BACCALÀ: all of the content was developed and gathered at home, in quarantine. What has kept you grounded, inspired, or even motivated over the past few weeks?

GV — In my work, I can stay alone in my mind, absorbed by what I do, for long periods of time. It almost already feels like a lockdown in my studio at times, where I keep creating all day long. Of course the actual lockdown affects me, especially since I cannot see my family and friends, but I handle it because I know the feeling of being alone with my ideas. I have the chance to share my life with my soulmate and we’ve been through quarantine trying to come up with more ideas, trying to create something new everyday. This experience just confirms that even when the body is constrained to a specific space, the mind is limitless and never in quarantine!

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