From Engineer to artist:
Talking with one of our Exhibitors
Fleur Thesmar, as an electrical and communication engineer, what brought you to art?
As many self-taught artists, I've been painting and observing things all my life! It's only when I arrived in the USA for a longer period -maybe definitively- that I discovered the very telecommunication technologies I contributed to develop massively in France, internet and smartphones, are unable to do what I expected from them: transmitting an experience of space. I realized that they are a dead end, when it concerns our sight and our imagination. For instance, photographs of San Francisco fail to transmit the immensity of the Bay area and the tormented seismic topography. At that time, I realized that American painting have renewed the ways of describing space, ways that may have been forgotten in Europe during the classical period. For me, it was a transforming time and I decided I would become a painter.
How has your practice evolved over time?
I started a new career from scratch, a foolish thing! I followed the rule to paint what attracted me: at first, landscapes and portraits. Meanwhile I was looking for what could make me progress, opportunities to exhibit, classes, books, mentors. My personal breakthrough happened during the pandemic, a time where I paradoxically were almost unable to paint because of asthma. At that time, I discovered a certain mathematical structure in trees, which I have been using ever since in my compositions. I also began to use monotypes to start new paintings, welcoming randomness and chance in my art together with very rigid structures. It creates a tension on the paper and an impression of 3D. I also use digital tools to sketch a painting and in these cases the finished watercolor sometimes looks like a collage.
What do you mean by transmitting an experience of space?
I remembered vividly some old European paintings such as the Garden of the Early Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, or The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Bruegel: with canvases the size of a human, they manage to represent a gigantic space without using the conventional perspective. These paintings also look alive, as if you were standing close to the scene by a window. I have the same feelings with Julie Mehretu or Richard Diekenborn. David Hockney calls these old techniques “reversed perspective”. This reinvention of composition is my main interest right now.
I am also interested in the instability induced by migration, or even travel. Will it start again after pandemic? You could contemplate thousand year old cities or forests, inhabited oceans, feel simultaneously the tormented human condition and the freedom of the wanderer. Everywhere you go, you always miss someone. The indifference of the world strikes you.
Why did you choose watercolor as a medium?
I am not settled, and watercolor is now my minimal and favorite tool. It’s an under-known medium, extremely difficult and sometimes too much codified. The artistic pigments are the same than in oil paint, it’s only because of the paper than it is better to frame it. To me it procures a unique mix of control and hazard, something closer to life than anything else. It also records every choice you made because you can’t conceal anything with a transparent medium. I also make tapestries: producing things that cannot be duplicated is another way for me to protest against the great mechanization of things. As it’s a very slow process, I produce few of them! Watercolors are best for intuition and creative joy.