06 / 05 / 2013
Not so long ago, here on this very blog, we spoke to the lovely Karuna Baloo. This time it's the artist Koralie's turn to invite us into her studio for a quick chat.
I first met Koralie about 9 nine years ago in Montpellier. Back then I was already in awe of her painting technique and truly loved her work. We have always remained in contact and have often bumped into each other over the past 9 years. That's why she immediately sprang to mind when I was planning this column. I think you're going to love her wonderful, colourful pictures. I would like to thank Koralie again for taking the time to chat to us.
Hi Koralie. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Koralie. I'm an artist and painter. And I'm a huge fan of architecture, photography, and the arts in general. I'm also a woman who feels like she has everything she wants and a mother. I have spent the last few months living in Paris but before that I lived in New York for four years and I grew up in Montpellier.
Tell us about how you got to where you are, and the key stages in your career.
When I was little I used to draw and paint all the time. When I left high school I had to decide what to do. Studying the arts seemed the obvious choice at the time. So I decided to enrol in a school of architecture as well as at Montpellier University to do art.
At the end of my first year I decided to continue just with architecture as the lessons, the teachers and the overall atmosphere there suited me better. I went on to study architecture for 6 years but carried on painting and having exhibitions at the same time.
During that period I had to move to Toulouse for my studies. It was there that I got really into graffiti. It was when I was in Toulouse in 1999 that I met the Truskool collective (Fafi, Lus, Tilt and co). They got me hooked on graffiti. It was a real turning point for me. I loved the idea of communicating directly with people passing by on the street. Graffiti gave me the opportunity to link together the two areas I was interested in: architecture and painting. I found it was important to me to choose each space carefully. I wanted my paintings to give life to an abandoned building or to fit in perfectly in a doorway or on street corner. I never just chose a space out of the blue. As I was already forcing my paintings on others I didn't want to tarnish the place on top of that. I took all of that very seriously. Another thing I liked about graffiti, as opposed to working in a studio, is that your work is there for all to see and criticise. I was no longer hidden away in my studio all on my own. I was able to exchange with others about my work. It was incredibly helpful.
When I got back to Montpellier having completed my studies, I decided to try and make a living out of my real passion in life, my paintings.Studying architecture taught me a lot about how to structure my work, how to organise myself and it gave me the love of geometric shapes, symmetry and detail which has had a huge influence on my work up.
Aside from your painting you also have a hand in photography and textiles too. Tell us about your brand Metroplastique.
Not long after I got back from Montpellier, I met my husband-to-be (Supakitch). Not only did I fall in love with him, I also fell in love with his work.
We both paint on the street and on canvas and we enjoy working together on all sorts of different projects. Because what we do is very modern and urban and because our followers are not necessarily art collectors in the traditional sense, we wanted to find a way to enable them to get their hands on a piece of our work without having to go through a gallery.
Therefore, we decided to launch our own t-shirt range and that is how Metroplastique came about. In our first year we won the Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year award, organised by Who's Next and the French Sport & Youth ministry.
But we're gradually moving into creating a range of by-products making us a bit less like a traditional clothing brand. We release new designs whenever we feel like it, as we don't want to be dictated to by the fashion calendar. Our online store enables us to achieve this as we run it ourselves and we can reach an international audience who know our work as artists.
What is your relationship with Sessùn?
When we were at high school, my friend Aurelie and I used to hand out flyers for the shop 'People's Rag' in Montpellier in exchange for free clothes. Julie, who now works at Sessùn, used to run 'People's Rag' and was one of the first people to stock Sessùn. That's how I know Sessùn, ever since the very beginning. I remember the knitted sweaters that Emma used to bring back from Peru and a vest with a Hawaiian print that I was given in exchange for a few hours work.
I have followed Emma's career very closely ever since. I admire her values and the way she has developed the label. She has stuck to her guns and been very shrewd in both her artistic and her professional choices. She has chosen her team well. I know quite a few of the people who work with her. They're all great people. They take their jobs seriously and have impeccable taste (Amelie, Sundae, Vanessa, Julie and Jessie ' love to you all).
Sessùn has managed to stay genuine and classic. It is fashionable but never boring or, on the contrary, over the top. Everything is just right, the clothes are pretty and timeless. I really love the label and think that it stands out from the rest.
How would you describe your work?
When I began taking painting seriously, I was predominantly inspired by everything Japanese. When I was growing up in the 80's, I used to love mangas. The imagery fascinated me, the colour of the heroine's hair, their weird outfits, I loved all of that!
Later on, I discovered geishas and became interested in their history. Geishas excel in all the arts; they keep Japanese customs and traditions alive. I decided to bring these two very different worlds together in my work i.e. the traditional and the modern to create a hybrid character, a mixture of lavishness and modesty bringing two sets of graphic imagery together.
Gradually, I introduced other symbols from other cultures into my work like Russian dolls for example, afro weaves, feathers, Cleopatra, Kachinas, chandeliers, cholis, corkscrew curls, Cluny lace, Marie-Antoinette, brooches to create my own aesthetic language.
What I find most interesting is juxtaposing different worlds that could never be juxtaposed in real life to create visual harmony.
When using my character Geishka (half geisha ' half matriochka) as the focus point of my composition or as a secondary element, it's not so much her character that I'm interested it's more what I can express through her hair, her costumes and her shapes.
How do you go about working? Where do your ideas come from? Tell us about where you get your inspiration.
I think that when you're an artist you take inspiration from what you see and hear around you. I'm always on the look out for new things whether I'm travelling, visiting a museum or reading a book, but also on the TV and on Internet. I love gathering all sorts of information. I'm passionate about images and love looking at or reading about beautiful things.
I tend to do things for certain periods of time. Once I feel that I have looked at enough photos then I'll start reading. Words and language help my mind relax and stimulate my imagination. I find these two activities complement each other perfectly. One nourishes me with new ideas and the other helps me to digest all of this new information.
Which do you feel the most at ease with: a paintbrush or a computer?
I don't really have a preference. They complement each other. I feel very at ease with a pen or a paintbrush but I also love the computer as it enables me to achieve perfect symmetry, which is something that I am always looking for in my work.
What is your typical day like?
I spend most of my morning answering emails, organizing stuff, doing the accounts, seeing to our online store Metroplastique, doing a bit of promo and research (FB, blog, Pinterest etc), making phone calls, replying to interviews, editing photos… Basically dealing with the administrative side of things that my job entails.
I use the afternoon to create, working on my own projects or projects with others. I like to have actually done something productive by the end of the day. Sometimes I'll work on an exhibition, a collaboration, an illustration in my workshop or on my computer.
In the evenings and on the weekend we spend our time with the kids and sometimes go out. There's no more working crazy hours with no time off. We're very strict about this as otherwise it would be very easy for work to completely take over.
One last question, what are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm working on a rug design for Chevalier Edition and I'm also working on a book that will be out this autumn. We (Supakitch and I) are also working on two murals that will be finished in June, one for Volvo for the Zurich Car Show and the other for Luxemburg (for a wall that's 30m x 8m). I'm also working on my own jewelry collection, which should be ready by spring.