Anne von Freyburg: Untitled (After Boucher)

Anne von Freyburg

Artwork’s Title: Untitled (after Boucher) 150 x 170 cm

Materials Used: Acrylic, synthetic-fabrics, sequin fabric, tapestry-fabric, hand-embroidery, polyester wadding, and hand-dyed tassel fringes on canvas.

Studio Based: London

Anne von Freyburg, Untitled (after Boucher) 2020, 150 x 170 cm, acrylic, synthetic fabrics, sequin fabric, tapestry-fabric, hand embroidery, polyester wadding, and hand-dyed tassel fringes on canvas. Photography: Peter Hope

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

With my latest work I begin with manipulating photo reproductions of old masters Rococo paintings in Photoshop. I tweak, swirl and blow up some parts of the original painting and change its color into a more contemporary pallet. After that I translate the digital prints into line drawings on acetate sheets. These line drawings are projected onto the canvas, which I use as a reference while painting the image. The acrylic inks are applied on a wet and raw canvas and is done quite quickly. The ink painting functions as an under-painting to build on with various kinds of fabrics.

If I have a new idea for a technique I make some samples, but mostly I try out new ideas directly on a piece. After all the fabrics are glued onto the canvas I take it home where I stretch it on an embroidery frame and hand-sew those glued pieces onto it.

When that is finished I add polyester wadding and use a quilting technique to create a puffy effect. Then I paint the fringes, which are the last element to add.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

More is more.

How did you come up with the idea of ‘Untitled (After Boucher)’? Is there any story behind this artwork?

The original painting is a portrait from Madame de Pompadour by Francois Boucher that I appropriated and used as a starting point for the work. In general I am interested in the constructs behind femininity and art historical western beauty. Like textiles and craft, the Rococo period has been marginalised because of its feminine and frivolous appearance.

That’s why I wanted to let a Rococo painting have a dialogue with textiles. For me that period is a celebration of the senses, the sensual and overwhelming visual pleasures, but also a hedonistic and overly indulgent one.

The idea of the portrait translated into fashion fabrics is a reference to a culture obsessed by image, the body and appearance.

The puffy effect refers to bumpy imperfect body parts. It can also be perceived as a “tapestry on steroids” or “cosmetic fillers”. On the one hand I aim for the work to bedazzle the viewer with seductive materials, while on the other hand I am questioning these seducing tricks by giving the work its wobbly, uncanny and grotesque appearance.

Reconstructing old masters’ paintings out of kitsch and decorative materials and turning them into modern art could be perceived as an ironic gesture, and while the concept carries out some irony, the process of fabricating historical paintings with swirly brushstrokes and textile pieces feels empowering to me.

You have James Freeman gallery presenting your new exhibition in London. What kind of new artworks are you showing there?

There will be four mixed media textile paintings I made in 2020.

Three of them are textile wall-hangings after portraits made by Fragonard and one after a portrait made by Boucher.

Skin Deep’ is the group show’s title. How did you decide to give this name?

James Freeman came up with the title ‘Skin Deep’ and its about how ideas of the ‘beautiful’ are fabricated. The title refers to the saying that ‘Beauty is skin deep’. To this end, both artists work with ‘skins’ or layers – Nigel’s work in a literal sense with nude figures, and my work through the use of layers of textiles and fabric – and so the title taps into this in several levels.

How do you believe your artworks develop a broader dialogue with the other artist’s body of work who is involved in this group exhibition?

Beauty is a construct: it is not objective, nor obvious, but something that is built up in a specific cultural context and that sits within a web of references and values. This is the central theme that we examine, albeit from different angles. My work takes a quintessential trope of the ‘beautiful female’ as my starting point: the female drawn from Rococo art by artists such as Fragonard and Boucher. Deconstructing these stereotypes is almost a responsibility for a contemporary female artist, but then finding a way to rediscover them through hand-working with textiles, through complicated imagery that is made real, physical and intrusive on the viewer. This physicality is also part of Nigel Grimmer’s work: he takes online imagery from dating apps and then makes physical interruptions on them like marks, filters or emojis, turning throwaway digital culture into something tangible and permanent. Two artists using physicality to force viewers to question their assumptions of what beauty is and how it is received: I think it makes for a very interesting dialogue.

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?

The work is concept based, but during the process new ideas come up as well. Material experiments can sit around for a year before I have the right idea for it. Thinking and making go together hand in hand.  The concept, colors and materials are thought through, but the rest is trial and error.

What would be the best way to exhibit your work?

A white cube is a good place to present my art in because it is a neutral space.

Besides that, it would be interesting and a dream come true to see my work in a Rococo period room like the one at the Wallace collection.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

In general I am inspired by the whole Rococo period, from paintings to its interior design. The lush brushstrokes of Fragonard are very inspiring to me as well. My latest obsession is with the Dutch still-life paintings by Jan van Huysum. As a Dutch artist I would like to rethink these opulent and decadent Rococo flower paintings. Lately I am also looking into the ideas behind the monochrome painting and minimalism like that of Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella. The American Pattern and Decoration movement from the 80s is where I draw inspiration from as well. Particularly Miriam Schapiro’s ‘Femmage’ pieces.

Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?

No I don’t.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

My studio is quite spacious. It has natural light and is very organised. I have a roof window that I can open when I am using spray-paint or fabric glue.

There is an ironer and drawers with yarns and beads. In the corner of the studio I store all the boxes with all sorts of textiles. Mostly the studio is tidied up except when I work on a piece. Then the fabrics are all over the place. 

I use my studio for painting with acrylic inks and applying the fabrics. The hand sewing I do at home on an embroidery frame.

What do your parents think about your art?

My parents are very supportive of my art. They are both proud of what I have achieved so far.

My mother is a former art teacher and now head of her own part-time art-school in Holland that offers artists a post-academic program. My stepfather is a painter. I have a very close relationship with them and it is a privilege to be able to share the same interests and passion for art.

Which are your plans for the near future?

At the moment I am working on another series of old masters Rococo portraits.

Parallel to that I started a flower still life by van Huysum that I will transform into a puffy textile painting as well. Then there is this idea of the monochrome in conversation with the decorative and ornamental, that I’m interested in. Ideally I would like to make an installation where the wall is included in the work.

Additional Images

Anne von Freyburg, Untitled (after Fragonard) 2020, 110 x 155 cm, acrylic, synthetic fabrics, spray-paint, tapestry-fabric, hand embroidery, polyester wadding, and hand-dyed tassel fringes on canvas. Photography: Peter Hope
Anne von Freyburg, Portrait, 2021
Anne von Freyburg, Untitled (after Fragonard) 2020, 110 x 150 cm, acrylic, synthetic fabrics, sequin fabric, tapestry-fabric, hand embroidery, polyester wadding, and hand-dyed tassel fringes on canvas. Photography: Peter Hope


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