Thinkspace is excited to present Clémentine Bal for her debut U.S solo ‘Magic Friends,’ which welcomes viewers into her world of characters who proudly embrace their uniqueness and vibrant colors, filling Gallery II of Thinkspace Projects for her debut U.S. solo exhibition.
This body of work explores slightly strange, quirky, or even truly bizarre characters and a joyful luminous ensemble fueled by gradients and contrasts. Each subject was designed to celebrate their own individuality, even as some of them still struggle to accept themselves as they are. They form a magical entity that can transform at will. With their simple, clean lines, it’s as if they just came out of a drawing, evoking a childlike wonder and even a disconcerting naivety.
“I truly enjoyed bringing these characters to life, aiming for them to be light-hearted, kind, and funny, like friends.”
Our interview with Bal reveals her creative inspirations, what she would choose if she can download any special skill, about her dream collaboration and more!
What themes were you exploring in this body of work? Did you have a piece that was particularly challenging?
I wanted to work on original characters, giving them sometimes strange shapes. I also wanted to make wall sculptures, so that they take a little height. I wanted to give them confidence, to impose their strangeness and take us into their magical world.
I wanted to work a lot more with colors for this body of work. I wanted to create a very colorful set, in line with the more playful temperament of these new characters. I had a great need for joy and gaiety.
The work on certain sculptures was particularly long and difficult. The large wall pieces with complex shapes in particular required months of work. Days and days of sanding, finishing and handling difficulties. It’s all the more rewarding when the job is done!
What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days? Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
I have very conventional working days because they are based on my children’s schedules. I am in my studio from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I sometimes go back a bit in the evening but I generally take this quiet time to do little drawings. In general, I plan the day before my goals for the day. In the morning I start with what I prefer to do, listening to audio books. In the afternoon, I advance on what is necessary, with music. It is rather well structured and it helps me to be well concentrated.
What is your most favorite and least favorite part of the creative process? Who are some of your creative influences? Why do they inspire you?
I have lots of favorite moments! First of all, I love the beginning, throwing myself into building something. But I also like to realize the details, and to see these forms which become characters.
What is most complicated is the end. The final touches, often endless, and the photos, which closes the process. There comes a time when you have to accept that it’s not perfect, and move on to try to do better!
The discovery of Mark Ryden’s work was a big crush for me, I loved the distorted naivety of his characters, the link with the world of childhood.
I’m a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, these masterpieces with all these extraordinary characters.
In literature, Murakami is truly one of my favorite authors, with his fantastic creativity.
And then there are these contemporary artists whose work I admire like Otani workshop and Klara Kristalova with their characters of great sensitivity. Nicolas Party, whose work with colors I particularly admire. Ob with all its delicacy. Roby Dwi Antono and his incredible artistic path. David Shrigley and his humor. And of course so many others…
If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do / be an expert at?
What do you hope viewers take away or experience while viewing your work?
So what I would like (maybe it’s more of a magic power than a skill) would be to be able to talk to the animals. I could tell them how much I love them, and how sorry I am for all the harm done to them.
But concerning my work, I believe that it would be better to remove things from my brain. With less expectations, control, fear, I could gain spontaneity. I work on that!
If my sculptures can give people a sweet, inner smile, then my job is done!
How do you like to enjoy your time outside of the studio? Do you celebrate the completion of a body of work?
When I’m not in my studio, I take care of my children, my animals, my family. And when nobody needs me, I go back to work. It is both physical and cerebral activity. I like feeling tired after a hard day’s work.
I don’t celebrate anything at all! Of course, I can be satisfied with the work done, but I immediately think of what’s next. There is continuity and each completed work calls for the next.
If you could collaborate with any artists in any sort of medium (i.e. movies, music, painting) who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?
I would like to collaborate with a designer, and create everyday objects that would take on eccentric shapes as if they were transformed. It would amuse me a lot!
What might also interest me would be to see my characters in stop motion, I find certain film aesthetics magnificent.
Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?
There are obviously plenty of people whose work I admire, but for a dinner, I prefer to invite those with whom we are going to have a good evening.
I invite Laure Calamy, brilliant French actress, super funny. The kind of personality opposite of me, I adore.
I invite Marion Peck and Mark Ryden, because they are so inspiring!
I invite Totoro (I allow myself! ), Because if I had to worship a god, I would choose him. And I would love to give him a hug.
And I invite Ricky Gervais, he really does me good.
Regarding the menu, well, I hope my guests won’t have too many expectations about it because gastronomy is clearly not one of my passions. It will be vegetarian, and above all we will drink a good little wine because I will be very intimidated by everyone!
And I’m really not very good at sociability, so icebreaker questions usually come the other way around!
What was in your musical rotation during the development of this body of work?
I usually listen to a bit of everything, classical, rock, electro, it’s very varied. But the last few months, it’s been very hip-hop. Working on large pieces can be very physical, and music is a great help in maintaining pace and motivation. Thank you Eminem and Dr Dre, you have been a great help to me!