Artist Interview: Anouk Mercier


Anouk Mercier’s solo show ‘Excursus’ brings together a body of work produced over the last 8 months, since she took the decision to dedicate herself to her practice full-time. Based in Bristol since completing her Fine Art BA at the University of the West of England in 2008, Anouk has developed a strong relationship with the city and has garnered much respect and recognition for her work. This past year has seen her win the Emerging Artist Award for the work that she submitted for the Autumn Exhibition at the Royal West of England Academy of Art, and a commission to produce a piece for the Bristol City Museum’s Permanent Collection. I met up with her to discuss her practice and influences.

‘When I was younger I used to love visiting stately homes because I’d walk around  and look at the paintings on the walls. I’d see a portrait and imagine that was the person that lived in this house, and then I’d see a landscape and imagine that that was the land they inhabited, and then I would go away and imagine what their life could have been. It’s that process, where you imagine what could have been based on visual elements as clues, that I want to recreate for the viewer with my own work.’

 Untitled (Landscape No.7)  2012

(Airbrush, Acetone Transfer, Coulour Pencil & Graphite on Paper)

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‘Excursus’ successfully recalls this world of nostalgia and Romanticism. The taxidermy owls and fantastic landscapes offer beauty and escape but also hint at something darker, somewhere behind the eyes, somewhere in the distance. The looming landscapes are created using a combination of airbrushing and acetone transfers. Built up from etchings of 17th and 18th century German landscapes, these images are collaged together to create places that almost exist. Complimenting these are the tighter, painstaking graphite drawings that demonstrate Anouk’s talent, patience and attention to detail.

‘I’ve got two main ways of working that are quite different to each other. Firstly there’s the detailed graphite works that I produce in a controlled and tight environment, and with those, there’s not much room for anything unexpected to happen. In contrast to that, with the airbrush and acteone transfer works, there’s always an element that I don’t control. I never know exactly how the ink is going to drip, and I never know exactly how the foreground image is going to transfer. It’s a different way of working, and it’s quite challenging to adapt to the unpredictability of the materials. I enjoy both processes, partly because if I only did the really intense graphite pieces I think I’d go a bit mad, so it’s good to balance that out with the looser airbrush works. Conceptually I consider both to work together, with the airbrushed works setting loose backdrops for the tighter drawings to inhabit –  it’s for the viewer to then imagine a potential narrative connecting the two.’

Saut de Lavalliere  2012

(Airbrush, Colour Pencil & Graphite on Paper)

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Anouk tells me that she sees all of her work as fitting in to an overarching narrative but that the importance of the viewers own imagination is paramount in discovering this.  She selected the title of the exhibition ‘Excursus’ influenced by her own passion for literature. ‘I was reading ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann, and in it there’s a chapter called “Excursus on the Sense of Time”. In this particular chapter, it discusses how time can seem to pass differently in different moments. An excursus is a diversion from a main narrative, so there’s the main body of this book and then this random chapter where the author focuses on just that one idea. I guess I’d like for other people to see the show as a diversion from the narrative of their everyday life, and a way of escaping.’

Anouk champions drawing as an art form and promotes this skill-based practice not only through her own pieces, and teaching at the Bristol Drawing School, but also with the Bristol Drawing Club, a group which she founded in 2009. Through the drawing club’s intermittent meetings she brings together people of all ages and capabilities and furnishes them with the materials and the space to create fun and interesting pieces. This way of encouraging drawing within a collective environment recently bought up interesting parallels with the Bristol School of Artists, which she has been researching as part of her proposal for the Bristol City Museum’s Permanent Collection.

 

 A Bristol Drawing Club Meet at Philadelphia Street Gallery 2012

‘The main thing that has come out of that whole project is learning about the Bristol School of Artists. Things like the format of their work have inspired some of the smaller rectangular pieces in the show, for example. The more I look into those artists, the more I find interesting parallels. For example, they were a group of amateur artists who would meet up in and around Bristol to draw in situ. They embodied a very romantic view of what the artist should be doing, which is outdoor sketching.  Some of them went on to be quite famous and some of them used sketches they did of Bristol to create fantastical landscapes, that obviously were imaginary but were based on their sketches of real places around here.  All of these things draw parallels with my practice and also with the Drawing Club.

Les Trois Cascades d’Eras 2012

(Graphite on Paper)

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With this project Anouk hopes to ‘reconnect some of Bristol’s contemporary artists with what is essentially their artistic heritage. My work uses romantic works and past works as a main source of inspiration. I feel really passionate about the idea of reviving works that have been forgotten or, over the years not quite appreciated as much as they should have been.’

‘Excursus’ continues until 29th July 2012 at Antlers’ current home on 6 Philadelphia Street, Quakers Friars, Cabot Circus, BS1 3BZ. Mon – Sat 10 – 7pm and Sun 11 – 5pm.

‘Excursus’ Interview Video – http://vimeo.com/45567668

Interview by Celia Archer

 

Photographs courtesy of Antlers, Anouk Mercier and Max McClure.

 

Her other works are available at

http://www.antlersgallery.com/artist/anouk-mercier

 

For more information on the Bristol Drawing Club go to

http://bristoldrawingclub.blogspot.co.uk/ http://www.facebook.com/bristol.drawingclub

www.anoukmercier.com