Five questions to Helene Zenatti

Five questions to Helene Zenatti

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Helene Zenatti was born in Paris, France, in 1964. After graduating cinema studies at St-Denis University, she has been a photographer for years, and had also several non-artistic jobs. She starts self-taught painting in 2006 while moving in Brittany, in the West of France, where she still lives and work.

How did you get into art?

My mother was a painter, but when I was young, I wasn’t very good at drawing myself. I studied cinema and then chose to be a photographer. I didn’t really choose to be a painter: once, I tried to paint, on a whim. I discovered I loved playing with colours and shapes in an abstract way. To me, used to photograph real things, it was a new world full of new possibilities. I still do both photographs and paintings. Now, there is often something abstract in my photos, too.

How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?

My work is always between landscape and pure abstraction. I often use different textures such as sand, crackle paste or varnish, collage of paper, as to represent a mineral or a liquid world. Colours are vibrant and unrealistic. My work is a place where imagination is free. I may say, my art is like music: it has no words, no figurative objects to show, but it creates emotions and visions. It talks about the passage of time and the elemental energy of nature.

How do you go about developing your work?

Sometimes I start by selecting the two or three main colours I want to work with. Sometimes I start with the texture, wondering where to put it on the canvas, and trying to guess if I will use any special varnish or not. It takes time to dry, so I usually work on several paintings at the same time. I’m very intuitive and often start a piece that finally goes in a way that I wouldn’t imagine at the beginning.

I often try new textures or ways of painting I have never done before. Thus, I am sometimes like a scientist experimenting new processes, pushing them in working many different pieces, until I win or definitely fail.

Who or what influences you?

So many things! Abstract painters or contemporary artists are my first inspiration. Books I’ve read, films I’ve seen have a major place in my work: they often influence my mood while painting. My last series is an homage to cinema and comics. But nature is probably my main influence. I can watch the sea every day from my window. I like to observe the changing of seasons, the clouds, the sky, the colours of the rocky coast, the fields and the gardens. I take a lot of photographs, almost every day. This finds its way into my paintings.

Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?

I want to paint large scales! And hang the canvas unstretched on the wall, just as a hanging or a curtain. I would like to show an exhibition where my paintings won’t be on only the walls, but also in the middle of the room, hooked to the ceiling as an installation. But before that, I have to finish preparing the upcoming collective summer exhibition in Paimpont Abbey, Brittany.

Learn more about the artist:

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