Interview & words: Elisa Routa
The great outdoors. This is where the French multidisciplinary artist’s work always kicks off. Through performance, drawing, painting and sculpture, Virginie Hucher allows nature to directly interact with her work. “I need my body to be smaller than my creation, I need it to be tiny compared to the work I create,” she says about Support Vivants (Living Supports), her series of works created at the crossroad of performance and land art. Using her whole body and a stick to carve round symbols and geometries, dancer Virginie simply likes to start an artwork in a natural environment, as a support to dance her forms onto. Whether it is along a river in France, in the snow in Sweden or on the sand in Canada, the movement, the shape, and the rhythm of organic elements play a role in her process of creation. “Then, when I get into my workshop, the reverse situation happens, and I occupy all the space. It’s a question of polarity. The workshop becomes a space for transformation, turning macrocosm into microcosm. In a sketchbook, the shape gets smaller, and eventually, the work takes another dimension – a smaller dimension – turning itself into a 2m x 1m canvas for example.” We met the dancer-turned-artist who talked us through natural pigments, silence, and the necessity of balance in her life and work.
“When I touch the two extremes, this is how I manage to create.”
It is through the movements of the body and the rhythm of choreography that Virginie first got interested in art creation very early on. “My mother introduced me to dancing when I was only 2 years old. My father taught me French boxing so I’ve been practicing the two disciplines for years. I literally grew up around notions of softness and strength.” The duality of these two practices, the opposition between nature and the city, the relationship between the soul and the body, the parallel between sky and land, and the confrontation that imply the terms emptiness and fullness are themes that the French artist has naturally been invoking to build up her life and work around. “When I touch the two extremes, this is how I manage to create. I’m living in harmony with all this. Once again, everything is Yin-Yang. I’m constantly looking for a balance. Dancing is a body language but it’s also the expression of the soul. What I love is the verticality in all this. Land & Sky. Land as the body, sky as the soul.”
“My whole life has been based on the balance between nature and the city.”
Virginie Hucher grew up in Paris until an important event in her life strongly shaped her relationship with nature. “When I was a kid, my parents got a secondary house in Picardy in northern France, situated in a village of only thirty inhabitants. As a kid, I was given two gifts: first dancing, then this house that became an essential part of my soul,” she explains. “It was hilly and windy. There was nothing except a forest but, at that time, something very powerful happened: that’s when I started building my whole identity around nature.” Every weekend, the whole family would go to the countryside before coming back to Paris for the week. “It was already a matter of balance, and it’s still the case today. My whole life has been based on the balance between nature and the city. Today, I live exactly where I used to walk as a kid with my friends in Picardy. With my partner, who works as a geobiologist, we built a passive ecological house entirely made out of wood on the land where I would pick apples when I was young. We organized my workshop in the basement where I have a fantastic view over the forest and a meadow. The room is facing North which is excellent for a painter, and I see a green coat of thirty meter-high trees behind my window. I’m someone who appreciates the good and the beautiful.” Virginie doesn’t imagine her life without these two conditions. Whenever she looks around her house-workshop, also called her laboratory because of the amount of images she collects either in her head or in notebooks, the French artist needs all her points of view to be nice. Nice and OK. And she’s not talking about if the room is tidied up or not. “I’m not looking for perfection but I pay attention to every color, every shape, and every material. I make sure everything is OK. Every time I turn around, I need to see nature and a corner of the sky. Once I feel full of nature, I travel to the city, I take my dose of energy, emulation, pollution, and culture, and I empty myself. That’s when the breath becomes a form. Everything is created, and everything is transformed within me. I’ve always needed these extreme poles in my life.” In her quest for aligning her career goals with her sustainable approach and core values, Virginie found a way to go fully green with her workshop. That’s why Virginie is currently working on building up her next sustainable and eco-friendly workshop in a wonderful pasture facing her own house.
“Silence was almost shining and it really inspired me.”
Nature is not only a playground and an abstract source of inspiration but it is also a true living medium that composes the artist’s work. The colors Virginie uses — ochre, white, yellow, green, and terracotta — reflect natural pigments. They’re able to extend the conversation she continuously establishes with nature. “First, the colors I use are inspired by the colors present in nature. Then, I apply the painting with a pencil but, at some point, it’s almost like the canvas is asking me to use my hand and forearm. The pencil is just an intermediary tool that I sometimes find not flattering to spread the paint. I enjoy the texture of the paint as much as the cray when I do ceramics. In that case, clay is magic. There’s a true dialogue from self to self, and from self to the other.”
The lockdown period didn’t change anything in Virginie’s life, it just put some projects on hold. “It was as if we were living in hibernation,” she explains. “Silence was almost shining and it really inspired me so I’ve been very productive lately. Even though I usually need the world around to create, there was something that was being told. Despite silence. I felt a strength somewhere. Life is my art, life is creation, and my art is my life.” The circle is complete. Body and mind come together.
Virginie Hucher has a few exhibition projects coming up: Galerie Exit Art from the 5-29 of November in France. She will also be part of the collective exhibition organized by Sapar Contemporary taking place in NYC from December 2020 to February 2021. Virginie will also exhibit at Amelie, Maison D’art in Paris in 2021, as well as at the Modern Art Hire during the London Design Festival.
Photos credits: Amelie, Maison d’art & Virginie Hucher