Enjoy Margaux Valengin’s expression of physical and spiritual nourishment on canvas

Margaux Valengin‘s (b.1992) current exhibition at Union gallery in London curated by Liam Scully, signals the French artist’s departure from previous painting series and motifs to noticeably more figurative and surrealistic works. Comparing to previous series, her recent depictions reveal an advanced accuracy on details along with a subtle retro tone. Undeniably, her surrealistic approach, which has become prominent in her late paintings, delineates the artistic motifs on canvas rendering first-hand experience. Her figures, with vague faces and widely applied forms, seem to meet more archetypical standards rather than distinctive ones.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Installation View, In the field of Semolina, curated by Liam Scully at Union Gallery London, Courtesy: Margaux Valengin
Artificially bizarre compositions of animals, plants and other objects in vivid colours play a key role in Valengin’s artistry that recall the works of surrealist abstraction. Her iconography favours imaginary settings, therefore the potentially eccentric visualizations harmoniously build an artistic balance with the rest of the gestural arrangements on canvas.
Valengin still continues a collage-like approach to her paintings. In Cristelle or Elpuche paintings, two large female figures dominate the main composition; however, unfinished surfaces of blue sea waters cover the face of one of the women creating a mysterious abstract shape that seems to visually interrupt the main depiction by adding a new scene within the same painting. Another interesting element, which is distinctive in her paintings, is that fruits, animals or other objects, like knives or glasses, are also clearly eminent in the paintings, but seem to just reflect still-life depictions. These elements enrich her artistic style and vocabulary, while offering an interesting dynamism in the painting as they are able to operate either as autonomous entities or separate ones.
Epluche, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 101,3×152,2cm, 2017, courtesy: Margaux Valengin
Valengin’s figurative compositions, which flirt with abstraction, approach the ideology of creativity, subconscious or physical -even spiritual- nourishment, as she mentions herself. Take into account that Valengin’s visual vocabulary is “sort of imposed on her by an instinctual voice”. The French artist obviously knows how to create an alluring atmosphere on canvas showing her skills also in successfully coping with ordinary motifs, such as wild animals, women, the sea or flowers. The spatial interpretation is another point the viewer needs to pay attention to. I really enjoy how multiple sceneries are either projecting a casual motif or eccentric utopias, yet beautifully coexist within the same painting. One single space embeds various realities.
Soleil Mou, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 43,3×53,5cm, 2017, courtesy: Margaux Valengin
Margaux Valengin was born in Peronne, France, but currently lives and works in New York. She received an MFA at the Royal College of Arts in London in 2016, following her Bachelors in Fine Art at the Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Cambre in Brussels in 2014.
In this interview, the talented emerging artist analyses her beliefs and her art, while she also shares interesting details about her personal life. Check it out.
Mixmaster, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2017, Courtesy: Margaux Valengin
Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Margaux Valengin: I collect a lot of images (i.e. I take pictures, I find pictures on the internet, and I make drawings) and I collage them on Photoshop. The resulting photomontages are preparatory studies for paintings. Regarding the choices of my subjects, they are sort of imposed on me by an instinctual voice.
How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)? 
Squashy forks on velvet.
Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from? 
Linette Yiadom-Boakye, Amelie Von Wulfen, Max Beckmann.
Laura and friends, oil on canvas, 2017, Courtesy: Margaux Valengin
Looking at your paintings, a kind of mixture between figurative compositions, that also flirts with surrealist abstraction, comes in mind; is there any potential or other particular message or idea you desire to reveal on canvas? 
Women, wild animals, water, light, fields, breasts, and vegetables are recurring objects in my work and symbolize nourishment—they can be seen as an expression of physical nourishment but are also essentially metaphors for spiritual types of nourishment. While I say this, I do not want to give a too rigid interpretation of my work, I like the idea that the viewer feels connected to the image via his or her own interpretation of it; I only hope my paintings are inspiring to the viewer.
Creating a new painting is a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all? 
I think the only reason it is a solitary process is because artists are usually alone in their working spaces. I work from home—I do not really have the choice because renting an art studio in NYC is outrageously expensive. Probably anybody whose work does not involve interactions with other human beings experiences isolation.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process? 
The size of my studio affects the size of my work (I used to paint on three-meter-tall canvases). Aside from that I am not affected by the space. I draw inspiration from the many images I look at and from the dreams I have; it is all about two-dimensional images in my head. Before arriving on the canvas, the images do not exist in the physical space so to speak. Even my sketches are on the computer screen.


What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
The act of painting is for me a source of psychological strength and the iconography I use illustrates this. Through the expression of my inner feelings and through the pursuit of psychological strength I hope I can convey strength to the viewer. The proverb, “What is most personal is most universal” is something I wish to apply to my work, and I want my paintings to empower the viewer reminding them of their own deep emotions.
What does your mum think about your art?
It is hard to tell—my mother has difficulties talking about what she feels. In one of his last interviews, John Berger mentioned his friendships with farmers and shepherds when he was living among them in France. He talked about their acute sense of seeing and how they would avoid using words to express their emotions. Their profession requires them to be vigilant and to be good observers but not necessarily good speakers. Both sides of my family have been farmers for generations, and I like to think that this fact explains my inclination for painting.
Is the glass half empty or half full? 
Depends on the glass, the shape, the day, the color, the mood, what’s in it, etc.


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