Valérie Favre


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Opaque night, a cloud of gas and dust .. Valérie Favre’s latest series, ‘Fragments’, takes us to the cosmos and into the abyss.

These are the depths of the night: the primal world, the dawn of time.

In the middle of the canvas, tiny white marks spark our imagination: they could be shooting stars, or swallows that migrate in a circle as if confused, or tiny white freckles, or powder that’s scattered, or specks of sand … 

Needless to say we got drawn to them like moths to light when we recently visited Favres studio for our Eigenbedarf Special

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Valérie Favre paints life in glimpses: timeless or fleeting, rubbing shoulders with our emotions and our desires. The series At the Table for instance depicts a kind of evanescence. In the distance we see a huge butterfly and closer to us silhouettes, pieces of furniture to the right, roses to the left …

It’s as if we wake up slowly and just begin to discern what surrounds us in stages, like a day-dream.

Elsewhere in this series, a bluish silhouette is cut out from a green background, its back to us. Rather ghost than human, with branches instead of arms, she (he?) floats and sails the air like a vague memory or an absence that’s oddly ‘there’.

Clearly Valérie Favre is also a playwright and a storyteller at heart. The tales she paints are like tapestries of light and colour. They speak of love, loss, wants, anguishes and more, how our sensations clash or intersect with who we hope or believe to be.

Part tragic, part playful, each series digs into ourselves and unfolds like a spectacle in our minds. In these little life ‘epics’, nothing is clearcut. She paints those in between spaces, mental images, our doubts, the unsaid. Coincidences and other things we can’t explain about life are also most alluring…

Read on this interview with the artist to find out more about her work!

our work is full of references to literature, often dreamy, but also obscure as in your exhibitions The Art of Watching Birds, and Honig in der Sackgasse at the Barbara Thumm Gallery.

Why these titles and what emotions do you express in these paintings in particular?

I often work from books, poets, writers and philosophers. After a while I forget them, and it is only later that they return, in fragments and ricochets, from one sentence to another. These texts I remember are key to my choice of titles.

Occasionally, I use one instant that’s more commonplace, as for my recent series which I simply called ‘At the Table’.

Wind, Fire, Water, Earth…Which element best describes your work?

My work explores the connections between these elements. Wind, fire, water, earth are all linked. They seem to run parallel to each other, at times simultaneously.

Is there a particular artwork or place that inspired/motivated you to become an artist?

I grew up as an only child, close to nature, and later on loved reading a range of novels that filled and fueled my imagination. I discovered painting for myself at the Museum of Art in Basel when I was very little. I first went there accompanied, then on my own to see these paintings again and again.

These repeated visits were decisive moments that inspired me to paint.

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Do you consider yourself spiritual and how does this feed into your work?

I would say that every work of art is spiritual in that it opens up a field of emotions that is larger than what we are familiar with, like a passage to another universe that helps us understand ourselves better. What exactly we mean by work of art is of course a prickly question….

My work stems from multiple influences, whether literary or cinematographic.

I see these points of reference as ‘flashes’, like ideas that flicker and collide.

They are challenged by further influences, so I see myself as a ‘mobile’ artist. I explore and ‘travel’ freely across different terrain in my art.

My thoughts keep changing, they follow the versatility of my reflections. It is in these observations that the ‘spiritual’ resides.

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Is there a type of music or author in general that stimulates you?

I particularly like detective novels, as well as classical texts from Dante to Burroughs, Kafka, Ovide or Pérec, and Blanchot … Literature is an integral part of my art. Music less so. I prefer to paint in silence.

Painting and cinema/ theatre are two parallel universes but the links between them are intriguing. Does your background as an actress  influence how you paint?

Yes, absolutely. Theatre and cinema mean independence to me. They have influenced me and keep impacting my art to this day.

When I paint, I find myself back as a director, costume designer, lighting designer, scriptwriter even when it comes to the series. This certainly gives me greater freedom, but always keeping in mind the idea of conjuring something intimate.

In fact my paintings unfold visually like stories, like movies.

It’s impossible to compete with the narrative thread of a play of course but the underlying plot is there, if only implicitly.

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Your canvases are like visual puzzles drawn from everyday objects, myths, extraordinary creatures. What do these hybrid beings, dual / plural identities mean to you?

Your question speaks to me in the sense that I show just the tip of the iceberg. Geopolitics is essential to me.

Art can and must interpret it, so in this sense the artist is a translator.

In the ‘Suicides’ series, for example, I chose cockroaches as motifs or tools to capture this idea and make it concrete because it has become visual.

The hybrid creatures in the Lapine Universe series (2000) or the Souvenir Nets ten years ago symbolise my ‘plural’ identity, which I develop further in my serigraphs or near-abstract self-portraits. They are blurred, almost unreal, like the series on El Lissitzky and Virgina Woolf, respectively Komposition über Schopenhauer and Komposition über V. I hope my work tends towards the universal.

The layers of meaning I tie together express a range of sensibilities and emotions that goes beyond the strictly autobiographical.

Please tell us what you are currently working on and what you are looking forward to this year in terms of exhibitions?

My current series ‘Cosmos’ follows ‘Fragments‘ of 2012 which re-writes and adapts the motif of romantic landscapes. These are reminiscences, faint echoes of our memory which pigment and paint can transfer onto the canvas.

I am also working on an exhibition project which will take place at the beginning of next year at Berlin’s Pankow Gallery on the theme of exile I had proposed. The aim is to find ways for artists to share and be co-creative. It is less about painting for oneself than for others in order to inspire one another.

Besides that, I plan to visit exhibitions around the Bauhaus celebration, including the Berlinische Galerie and the Bauhaus-Archiv.

Read more about Valérie Favre on her website or visit the big Eigenbedarf Groupshow to see some of her works in the flesh! 


Opening hours and contact

25 August – 1 September 2019 | Täglich / Daily 16-20h

Montag geschlossen / Monday closed | Uferhallen, Uferstraße 8, 13357 Berlin-Wedding

Header Photo und alle Portraits: Martin Peterdamm

Author: Alexandra Etienne