08 avr. 2022THE VISIBLES | Oriane Bruyat: A painter's quest for identity
THE VISIBLES is a series of interviews and articles with a focus on underrepresented creatives and artists in Luxembourg’s art scene.
Oriane Bruyat is a painter who is making a name for herself in Luxembourg’s art scene. With a few exhibitions under her belt, her latest project femme de couleur is on show at the pop up gallery D’Epicerie on Place d’Armes until May.
You’re still finding your own style, but how would you describe the energy of your paintings so far?
I wouldn’t be able to tell you as I never really plan a particular theme in advance. But for now, I focus on the colours and the forms, mostly portraits. I guess some could say my style is very contemporary and sometimes classic in the sense that I try to respect the colour rule and use it as much as possible in my work. The experience I want to convey through my portraits is a focus on expression and looks, which I admire in Picasso’s work. My focus is also on womanhood as it relates to my identity and my multicultural heritage. Because I’m mixed race, when I was younger, I used to paint portraits of myself fully white and in some others fully black. I think it’s an expression of the search for my own identity from back in the days. Then I started painting people in different colours, because it felt like a more intimate perspective on my multicultural background. My art also reflects an exchange between my African and European roots, my existential questions about identity, race, culture, hence the importance of colour. I mix a lot of beige and brown for faces for example.
How did your journey start?
My father is a painter, I used to go to his exhibitions and he’d take me to museums. I started drawing mangas mostly and I kept going because people around me noticed I was very much into it. I have to admit though, I was one of the worst students in my art class at the beginning. I always told myself I would paint when I’m older although people started taking me seriously when I was 18 I think. From the age of 6 to 18 I would draw and paint almost every weekend, it was like an escape.
One day, I showed my family a painting of mine and to my surprise, everyone was in awe. I was so proud as it was my Basquiat phase. Not long after, I joined the faculty of arts in Nice, where I studied Ethnology of the Living Arts. It was more theoretical than practical, but spent all my time drawing. The more I practiced the more I began to receive praise from my family and my friends. I remember how people would come find me at my faculty and ask me to draw something for them. I would go to these cute little bars in Nice and the owners would ask me to show my drawings there, so that’s how I got my first exhibitions.
© Delali Amegah
I remember how during a family dinner, my father shared with everyone how proud he was of my craft, how I was becoming even more talented than he was. After so many years of hard work it felt amazing to earn his respect. For the first time, he was passing me the torch, and with so much pride.
I decided to do a one-year fundamental course at the Ecole d’Art Contemporain in Hollerich. I had a great experience thanks to the director who took me under his wing as he really liked my work and saw my potential before I did. He was very honest though, making it clear that my art was still a work in progress, which was precisely the reason I should never give up and keep practicing. People who know and appreciate your worth as a young artist should never be taken for granted, it’s quite rare. I would be in the art school studio from early in the morning until 10PM, those were my best painting sessions, time didn’t exist and didn’t matter. But I had bills and equipment to pay so I started working as a bartender in a few bars around town. One day, I hope to be established enough to be able to live as an artist full-time, to have enough money and time to do as many exhibitions as possible. I don’t feel accomplished as an artist yet and that is precisely what drives me to keep practicing and perfecting my craft. It is a very frustrating but necessary phase I believe, to never be satisfied with what you create. I have a concrete idea, a particular aesthetic and taste in mind that I haven’t been able to convey on a canvas yet.
How do you keep going when you’re (almost) never satisfied with the result? Do you have a lot of unfulfilling painting sessions?
I can be hyper focused on a painting for five hours, sometimes longer, sketching repeatedly until I’m satisfied, but I have bad days too, where I feel like I’m not good enough, that I should stop drawing and painting, it makes me very nervous. A good session for me is when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, so I have enough energy to create. I have my little rituals and if my surroundings feel like a safe space to create then I’m good to go! Once I gather all these ingredients, my creativity can flow with ease and I know I will be satisfied with my work.
You share a lot of songs on your social media platforms – is music an integral part of your painting process?
Absolutely! I probably have around 70 playlists on my Spotify account. Each one has a theme and ambiance that corresponds to a painting; it really depends on my mood. I tend to paint better or feel better painting with alternative music, solar sounds, traditional African music, again it really depends on what I have in mind. What I listen to during a session depends on so many factors, but I guess the environment and the weather are some of the most important ones.
© Delali Amegah
What is the most suitable environment for you to create?
One of my favourite places was the art school studio in Hollerich. It wasn’t anything special but the energy I felt from the place was insane, I really enjoyed painting there. With my headphones on, surrounded by brick walls, I was in my own little bubble. It felt like I was in a storage building, nothing fancy, it’s very raw and that’s why I think I liked it. The best environment though would be my apartment. I feel at my best when it’s clean and organised, surrounded by my plants, with good light, otherwise I can’t really focus. I can do my sketches in bars as well but never outdoors, there’s too many distractions, I prefer to be alone for the most part.
How do you deal with external validation as an artist?
Compliments are of course welcome and much appreciated, it is motivating. But I also understand that my art isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. A few years ago, I got a call from an art gallery in Luxembourg. I was expecting information about exhibiting my work there, but the owner explained that he had no intention to show my work yet, that my art was “too fresh”, but that they were looking forward working with me in the future. I was disappointed, but the feedback I got made me practice more to find my own style. When I do small exhibitions, I sometimes see people walking past my paintings and not even looking at them which I used to find hard. As an artist, I had to embrace the fact that people have different tastes and that is fine, my art will always find its people and its people will always find it! You can’t please everyone. I need to keep going no matter what.
In your earlier work, Basquiat’s influence is quite noticeable, could you share with us your connection with him?
My obsession for Basquiat lasted for three years. I loved the fact that he was not only a painter but also a musician. I listened to his experimental band Gray on repeat. He played the clarinet, so I learned to play it too. I also started imitating his drawing and painting style. I like that he wasn’t – or at least didn’t seem – as perfect or superficial as the today’s mainstream painters and artists. His “broken soul” vibe is what really drew me to the energy of his artwork, his aura. I think the colours and the proportions of his paintings create a chaotic harmony that captivates the eye. Francis Bacon is also one of my major inspirations, I find his art fascinating too.