I'm very happy to share the wonderful work of Paris-based artist and educator Alexandra Roussopoulos today, whose practice spans painting, sculpture, and installation. I love the emphasis on ideas of place, temporality, and movement. I'm grateful that she's shared a great interview with me here!
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Hello Alexandra! First, I would love to learn a little bit more about you! You're from Paris originally; are you still based there?
I was born and raised in Paris, of Swiss and Greek descent.
After having studied Fine Art in London, I moved back to Paris where I live and work. However, I often work abroad in the context of artist residencies, workshops and exhibitions. This spatial mobility shapes my practice.
What has your art education been like (formally or informally)?
I first studied at Camberwell College of Arts in London and then at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. The contrast between both art educations was unsettling. I found it hard to adjust to the French art eduction which was (and still is) much more hierarchical, teaching-wise. There was a form of equal exchange and generosity between tutors and students at Camberwell which I did not re-encounter at the Beaux-Arts, and which I suffered from.
Having taught for several years in an art foundation in Paris and in workshops, the question of transmission has remained important to me. I approach teaching as an exchange, a shared experience, as opposed to a one-sided transmission.
What first interested in you in making art?
What has always interested me in the process of making art is the feeling of freedom and independence it generates. Paradoxically, although my practice is connected to an experience, the outside word, a landscape, it does not depend on anybody else.
You created an artist residency in Greece! Can you tell me more about that?
"Nissi" is an artist residency that I created in 2014 on the island of Spetses, in my Greek family house "Spiti Roussopoulos" (literally the "Roussoupoulos House", which is the address of the house on the island).
For two weeks, I invite artists with diverse practices to get together, work intensively and freely, exchange their views and live together. Various media such as sculpture, painting, installation, video, photography and writing encounter and confront one another.
While participants do not have individual studios, they have access to a diversity of spaces on the island: the house, the garden, the village, the beach can become working spaces. The dialogues that emerge during this ongoing process of creation are a central part of the project.
The residency is also the opportunity to meet and collaborate with local artists.
At the end of the residency, an exhibition is organised, presenting the artists’ works in the house as well as other places on the island like the beach or abandoned constructions sites. As such, these pieces will keep evolving into new forms, that will extend the residency.
Your own work is in a variety of media and is generally abstract, allowing shape and color to interact. Where do the ideas for your works stem from?
Addressing questions that are inherent to painting - form, composition, color -, my works originates from an encounter, my relationship to a particular space. My practice involves the reappropriation of a context in which I find myself.
For example, it is during an artist residency in China that I started working with rice paper that I found there. The medium was local, light and thus mobile, enabling me to transport my work easily. These traveling "constraints" feed my practice.
This relationship to others - other places and artists - is determining in my work.
How do you start, or know when you've finished?
I don’t follow a prior outline. I am interested in the process of creation. My work begins with experimentation and research, involving a movement between construction and de-construction. It is about reaching an « unstable equilibrium ».
What is your studio space like? How much time do you typically spend there?
I am going to move out of the house and studio soon, so I’m currently working a series around the walls of this space.
The studio was built between the existing walls of the neighboring houses. As a spacious, metal and glass structure, the studio presents a very strong architectural identity.. This space has certainly has a great impact on my work.
It is located in the house in which I live and grew up. I guess it is the affective intensity attached to this space that has pushed me to leave it regularly and work abroad.
If you could go back to when you first began pursuing art seriously, would you give yourself any advice that you have learned along the way?
To keep on searching and experimenting. Not confine yourself to something comfortable and reassuring.
Have you ever been given any advice that you're happy you ignored?
When I left art school, I was in a relationship with a student sculptor who wanted to have children. We were very young. I told my English tutor about it, and he strongly advised me against the idea. He told me that my partner would continue to make art and that becoming a mother, I would stop. I didn’t listen to him. Today, I have two wonderful 21 and 26 year-old daughters and I have never stopped painting. On the contrary, this has only confirmed my decision to be a painter.
What do you find most challenging about pursuing an artistic career?
In contrast to the way in which artists are traditionally imagined, I would say that pursuing an artistic path requires a lot of rigor, perseverance and determination.
What is the most fulfilling or rewarding aspect of doing what you do?
The most fulfilling aspect of making art is the sense of freedom and empowerment it gives me. The possibility to pursue an artistic path is the greatest luxury, it is what makes me happy on a daily basis.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I am currently exhibiting at The Baldwin Gallery in London in the exhibition Mobile Forms.
I will be exhibiting in the following exhibitions in 2017:
"15 villa Seurat," curated by Joan Ayrton in Paris (February 2017); "Peindre dit-elle," curated by Julie Crenn at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole (March 2017); the Annual abstract art group show at Pifo Gallery in Beijing (March 2017); the "Les ateliers sauvages," an artist residency in Algiers (March 2017); "Trouble," at La Halle Saint Pierre (May 2017); "Perdre le temps," a collaborative exhibition with Anne Sedel at the Galerie Six Elzevir (May 2017); and "Meteorites," an exhibition curated by Matthieu Gounelle at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris (October 2017).
Anything else you would like to add?
The importance of the collective in my work certainly echoes my own history. I was raised by militant parents, Carole and Paul Roussopoulos, and grew up in a house filled with people, collective projects and a strong sense of solidarity.
Today, I collaborate on a regular basis: during artist residencies, curating projects, through teaching or collaborative pieces. Behind this confrontation to the world of others, lies the search for movement, the desire to be destabilised and nourished, to immerse oneself in order to move forward. These shared experiences construct me, they define my vision and sharpen my gaze.
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