Artist Clement Louis. Interview by Benjamen Judd.
At first glance, the work of French artist Clement Louis proffers a macabre, almost grotesque interpretation of beauty.
Bone structure and facial cavities are exaggerated; flesh is bleached to a corpse-like pallor that is made the more shocking due to the juxtaposing colour palette. For anyone from the MTV generation they might immediately recognize the treatment of the human form as redolent of Peter Chung’s groundbreaking animation Aeon Flux, with a touch of Egon Schiele’s stunning skeletalism.
A similar haunted beauty operates within Clement’s photography (Clement is one of those rare artists with a genuine eye for both mediums). Stark and romantic, these images are as haunting as Louis’ paintings, and no less peregrine for all the visible flesh of his human subjects.
This affected gauntness, and delicate dance between revulsion and romantic in Clement’s art, may be what brought him to the attention of Rick Owens, for whom Louis was commissioned to photograph one the renowned designer’s most recent collections.
I got to chat to Clement and learn a little bit more about his art, his inspirations and the process of becoming a self-taught artist and what inspires him to create.
INTERVIEW WITH CLEMENT LOUIS
(Artist portrait by Julien Martinez Leclerc)
Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and what inspired you to become an artist?
I grew up in the north of France near Lille, it was the most inspiring time of my little life. I was a solitary child, always finding himself better in his mind than outside playing with other children.
I don’t remember deciding about art or to be an “artist”, it was just simple, it was me – I didn’t choose anything. My parents were very open about this and helped me this way. My sister is a photographer too so I think that’s the thing in my family – you can do whatever you want to if you do it good.
You have mentioned in previous interviews that you are mostly self-taught. Can you describe the process of how you honed your skill and developed your particular style of painting?
Yes true! I didn’t take any classes in drawing. I’ve always drawn, even as a child, of things like flowers or my mother. I’ve never not drawn, really. I tried to learn drawing and technique when I was in middle school with my best friend, trying to understand the style and the brush of artists like Hans Bellmer or Dali. I don’t’ really know where my style comes from, I think its more about an eye. I know what I like and want I can do. After that I just express myself with my influences and my inspiration.
(Dame Au Bouton and Untitled)
Your work is reminiscent of Austrian painter Egon Schiele and the illustrator Robert Gould – have these artists ever influenced our work?
I love Egon Schiele! I went to his museum in Vienna to see his paintings in person, he is amazing and I think he will always inspiring me. His brush is strong and bad. I love that. I’m trying to be more direct and brut too but I’m at that level yet.
Can you name some of your favourite artists?
As you said before Egon Schiele, Van Gogh, Hans Bellmer and a lot more designers, architects and even people from Instagram! I see so much talent there.
How would you describe the overall aesthetic of your work?
I’m trying to show the beautiful in the scary and disturbing things. I always loved villains, not for what they do but for the little beauty and magical thing you can see in their eyes. So…in a way strange, and not so much understood by word or concept but the little thing. You could say, “it’s ugly strange, I don’t understand it…but I like it”.
(Fashion Illustration. Fendi. Marni. Vivienne Westwood. Givenchy. Marc Jacobs)
Where else do you turn for inspiration in your work?
From many designers, from light? and my life everything can be inspiration if you know how to open your eyes.
You work across two mediums – photography and painting. Do you have a preference for one? If so, why?
No at all! It’s always a fight with myself about this cause I can’t choose, and in fact I just think maybe I will not – I love both of them, I find inspiration in both of them so I will just try to combine my two passion to become maybe stronger in both.
What is next on the horizon for you?
I don’t know. I’m just about to leave London to go back to Paris. Let’s just hope more projects, more collaborations, more paintings, more photography. And just keep the passion intact.
(Photography for designer Rick Owens)