In the Studio with Marie Hazard. Words by James Ambrose

You have spent the end of 2021 and the first part of 2022 in the Americas taking extended stays firstly in Brazil and then Mexico, how have your experiences of these 2 countries been so far and has this period of travel impacted your practice at all?

It impacted so much my work in some very different ways. I was fascinated by Brazil because my grand parents lived there many years and my parents went many times. I grew up in a house with everything you could found in a “Paulista casa”. In Brazil, I stayed in São Paulo and went visit Serra Grande a small village in Bahia with my Brazilian friend Sophie. Working with some great artists in SP was a good experience. People are very generous, they don’t have much and turn out things in a way to make their life easier and simplest. It’s cool to see it that way. I was very surprised by the different ways of living in this city, the social gap is huge and unequal. I draw some little houses which reflect this idea, they represent a church, a tent, a house, a bridge. This is what I saw. I really liked how Brazilian put beauty in the center of their home. I think this is very particular in Brazil, the paintings, the crafts, the books, the furnitures; it just works together in a very special view. In another way the outside spaces are very strong as the nature and the architecture, the facades. Natural elements and materials make together some very outstanding and aesthetic spaces. I was coming to Brazil to make a film about football and work furthermore on this topic. I had my idea but it turned out that it has been difficult for me to go and meet those people because it is a necessity to speak Portuguese. I met Camila, a talented filmmaker with who I am planning to work on this project. Three months is not enough to make a film about football in Brazil, so we decided to take the time. I was interested to work on the social context of football linked to the soccer players on a stadium, but also link to the cultural and social environment. I think the link between weaving and filming is very close. It is something I really want to develop in the next months. Weaving is build with layers and patterns as a film, for me it is another way to see the world.  In Mexico, I stayed in Mexico City. I went three years ago for an artist residency. I completely fall in love (again) with this city. I was coming for a show but I decided to stay longer and work from there. I think DF is definitely a vivid place right now! The pandemic changed it in a very strong place for artists. I am dreaming of moving there part time for the weaving cultural history. In another way, the gentrification which takes place in the city is a bit sad, so I deeply think it is important when you work there to think how you can re- give what people offer you. I created very small works with some laces for shoes, cashmere, ropes, wire... I also created more spirals with the threads and printing techniques that I found there, which I loved. I am always so inspired by the tapestries and the beads woven fabrics, or objects that you can find in the anthropology museum. Their techniques are super elaborated but in a very simple way. I would maybe like to work more on some technical woven samples including beads like in the project called Potyra that Sophie and I created. I think Mexico moved me even more by how the city works. How every small works are so important in this big city. In an anthropology way Mexico City has an amazing organisation between people. This is fascinating and it gives hope to create whatever you want. It gives you space. It gives you the possibility to dream and create something which can be use in a very useful way but doesn’t have to be used in another way. I also love how the sound in DF is emerging in the whole city.

Production in Brazil 2022, Photograph courtesy of the artist.

You have also had a solo show at Galeria Mascota in Mexico City during your time there, can you explain a little about the concept for this show, the work featured, and how it came about?

I think one of the best example is to explain it with the poem written by Lorraine de Thibault for this show:

a spiral with a definition
a space between the here and now fine line of destiny and fatality created just as it finishes

in the paradox of a boundless reality I’m no longer afraid

a spiral without an expiry date time is only a subject
all is but a moment
one leading to another each dying in the other’s death I’m no longer afraid

the spiral suffocates
like the city I am leaving
in twists and turns
and yet pushing me far away it’s the spiral that’s leaving me I’m no longer afraid

I was working in a completely different way for this show. Lorraine said “the spiral never stops”. And I think I found myself in the spiral, when I look at it, I prefer to place myself at the periphery which allows me to go through the center, the refine part, the essence. I also think this is an abstract story, as weaving is a way of creating stories which also never stop. I was inspired by Steven Parrino, with his vortex works. I invited the public to look furthermore in the spiral and I like to ask where do they place themself? They can also place themself in between the circles of the spiral ... Maybe I also try to find answers, and the spiral is a way to think in a different way, to see different perspectives. I created them in Paris at a time where I tried to find my place and asking myself where I was aiming to be. I think I needed a change, I was spinning around both in my work and my life ... It is kind of linked I am sure! Usually poetry really helps me, but in that particular time I needed to work on something very tactile, creating a spiral with one thread. I like to think: as a woven fabric is made with one thread for the warp on a loom, a spiral is made with one thread with my hands.

Production in Brazil 2022, Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Your practice is primarily based around textiles and weaving, what first drew you to this method of production?

I love to create from scratch. I think this is interesting to not depend from so many different ways of production. I also think it is kind of an urgency to re think our way of production as artists. Textiles are here forever. I also really find it interesting how this cultural heritage evolves in our contemporary world. I like to built my works with details and layers, as screen printing or digital printing

How do you determine the makeup of the work and in particular the weavings you create? Will they be sketched first?

I like to work differently, most of the times I draw some abstract sketchs first. The drawings are used as a layout of the weave (la forme), or I use them as the print (le fond) on my weave. To draw allows me to navigate between the form and the substance in my work. For example I made some very small woven works off loom on a frame 10x10 cm. The inspiration came from my photographs from Bahia and from São Paulo. All the small works were made with different thickness yarns and beads. It would create another aspect inside the weave itself. I also print my drawings taken with my disposal camera. When it is printed, it gives such a weird and blurry aspect to the very precise woven fabric. It is questioning the materiality. My work Mustang is an example of it, we can think that I directly paint on the surface of the weave. It is like a trompe l’oeil. Sometimes I don’t draw. More and more, I am taking pictures with disposable cameras. I like the blurry grain of it. I print and cut the photographies, I made new images sometimes only with two pictures. It is not a collage but it just another layout, another filter added.

Installation View, Rendez-Vous, Galerie Miterand, Paris, 2021, Courtesy of the Gallery and the artist.

There is a laborious nature to producing large-scale work on a loom. When we first spoke you talked about the time spent at the loom as a kind of meditation?

Totally!! This is why I don’t see the time passing. Weaving is an act of repetition. I almost think weaving as an every day ritual. Like every techniques, the more you are working on it, the more you can find new techniques and ways of development into itself. Weaving is for sure a laborious producing work but I really like it, it is nice to work for a long time on a piece in opposition of drawing which is very spontaneous and fast. Only once you cut the warp, the weaving appears, it is really like magic.

You full-time studio is based in Paris? How does that city shape you and your work?

Paris is a very beautiful city but totally not inspiring for my work. This is why I like to go to other places. I think the idea of Paris is romantic, it is very nice to live there if you find your place. I miss living in London, I feel closer to the “anglo-saxon” way of life and attitude.

In the studio will you tend to work on a single piece at a time or do you have multiple works ongoing?

I will say it depends but I like to create my work with a story, and sometimes one work is not enough to tell the story. Does that make sense? I prefer to work on a single piece at a time on my loom but it happens that I work at severals at a time. Like my spirals... it was such a complex process to made them, I did a lot of tests to choose the best of them. So I had many spirals on my studio and my drawings at that time on the wall... my head was spinning around a bit. But for me even if I create multiple works at the same time, it is impossible to have them all around me. I think textiles can really take too much space and is very present on the wall. At this moment I am working on 14 works at the same time, and I just can’t have them all around me so I fold them and unfold all the time. I quite like this. I could even think of a new body of works as a performance folding and unfolding them in repetition.

Installation View, L’Air Sous Mes Pieds, 2022, Alexander Berggruen, New York, Courtesy of the Gallery and the artist.

What are your upcoming plans for the remainder of 2022?

I am presenting my work for a solo exhibition in NYC in June at Alexander Berggruen. I am excited about it, as I am working on a completely new body of works. I also made really large scales woven pieces for the first time. I invited two of my close friends Sophie de Mello Franco and Lorraine de Thibault to curate and write the text. I have also been working for the  two years on a very special project.. to be unveiled in October in Paris.

Finally, I wanted to ask, I know you have recently launched a philanthropical project called Potyra, can you tell me a little more about it and what it involves?

Potyra is an adjective in old Tupi* flourished, or a rare case of exceptional bloom. Yes, it was such a great project we made with Sophie.  When we both came to Serra Grande, in the area of Bahia in Brazil, we discovered this small village and the beauty of it. This village is very well organized. Once we went back to São Paulo for me and Rio for Sophie, I called Sophie and told her how I was touched by this experience and the beauty of Bahia. At that time, I was starting working on very small hand woven pieces, extremely fragiles, made with beads and some very thin threads. I was aware that I got the chance to see this and be surrounded by inspired people from Brazil and that they were giving me what they had: their joy, their generosity, their time. I asked Sophie if she wanted to help me selling my woven works and all the proceed will be re given to two ONG in Brazil, as a way of giving something from us. Sophie wrote a beautiful text explaining the project. We sold the 10 works and could give the funds. It was very good. We contacted one ONG in Serra Grande, to help them to built an art center for the young people living there -it is a way for them to discover art and be far from the drugs problems that we can found in Brazil-. The other ONG picked was Unicef to help the children who are suffering from the poverty in São Paulo. Sophie and I would be very happy to continue “Potyra” with other artists to raise more money for the art center in Serra Grande. The dream would be to create an art center linked to an artist residency, so we can invite artists to work with young Brazilian. It is like a spiral, the loop is never closed!

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Photography by Rebekka Deubner