In the Studio with Ella Duret

In the studio with Ella Duret, a visual artist whose practice approaches the nude, its curves and shadows. We met with Ella to tell us more about growing up in Brussels, their greatest influences, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I’ve always been sensitive to art since I was a kid. Both my parents were working in the cinema and music industry. When I was 10 I told myself that I would do everything to become an actress. I guess that dream transformed into painting. I can see the relation between acting and painting through my desire to express things out of my body and mind. The first time I really felt it was my path was when my visa ran out while I lived in Vancouver. Suddenly I had no right to be in the country. It was a difficult period for me and painting was the only thing I could do anytime and anywhere. The feeling of not being allowed to live somewhere is the opposite of my life as an artist in a sense. Or perhaps a response to that. 

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I’m from Brussels. I grew up dreaming I’d become an actress and I’ve always felt that creativity would nourish my life. The urge to express myself in a way or another. After 10 years of acting I felt more interested in the history of art. I did one year at uni and realized that I was missing practice and theory was not the right decision. I have a bachelor degree in graphic design and a master degree in editorial design. Those 5 years of art school drained me and I got sick of Brussels. So I booked a one way flight to Asia and left for 5 years traveling by myself. I visited 13 countries during 2 years before settling down in Vancouver and then London. I guess this nomadic life had a big influence on the artist I’ve become and definitely impacted my work. Escaping reality through traveling is like painting to me.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work? 

I can add that during traveling I’ve always carried sketchbooks, I would mostly draw plants, I had an instagram account at that time where I’d post only nature photos and drew sketches out of them. Drawing plants has always come out fluidly. My retrenchment through painting when I had no rights to work and the urge to express things out of my mind might explain why I’ve started to mix bodies and organic forms. 

What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from? 

I don’t really like to say there’s a message behind my paintings. I like the idea of self interpretation and the intimate feeling there is between a person and the artwork. People always tell me different stories about what they see or how they interpret my paintings. I guess that’s part of my purpose, expressing stories out of my mind and being excited to hear people’s different interpretations. There’s always another painting hidden in my paintings, usually from the renaissance period, bodies are mixed towards a new dimension, a new story. 

Who & what are your greatest influences?  

Obviously Matisse’s work had a big influence on my practice. Picasso, Botticceli, Rubens, Titien, Rodin, Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Degas, Derain to mention the classic ones. Louise Bourgeois, Cecily Brown, Joan Mitchell, Francine Van Hove. More recently I find a lot of inspirations through artist of my generation such as Chloe Wise, Noelia Towers, Aryo Tohdjojo, Karyn Lyons, Evgen Copigorisek, Shanon Cartier Lucy, Alexis Ralaivao, Jenna Gribbon, Hadjab Dhewadi, Amanda Wall, Francisco Tavoni, Mallù dalla Piccola, …

An unexpected source of inspiration?

People watching. I have a guilty pleasure on youtube, I follow people that inspire me through their way of living. I’ve always wished I could secretly enter people’s homes and simply observe their daily routines. I devour artists’ biographies but that’s not unexpected. 

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

I don’t paint for others. I paint first and foremost for myself. It’s how it started, from my gut, and I don’t want to lose this honest spontaneity by wondering what people would think. To be honest I don’t really care. I’m creating and that’s the most important for me. Of course people’s opinions and feedback matter to me once the piece is out of my studio. It’s the best thing I can ask for : trigger reactions.

What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice?

I’m currently going through a massive style change and moving towards more realistic paintings. I’ve shifted to oil paint since a little while now and that had a lot of impact on my practice. That shift put me through a lot of experimentation to get used to and feel comfortable with a new medium. I do experiment a lot with film photography as well and that’s becoming a big part of my inspiration too. I guess a lot of artists are going through changes in their practice when personal events happen. I’m a very sensitive person and my feelings are very much connected to my art. When I’m going through a difficult time it usually gives more power to my practice. Well I’m super happy when it’s the case haha.


What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

I need to be ready mentally, I usually think about a new piece for days, even weeks before the first brushstrokes. I don’t paint on the go. I can sit in front of a new canvas without doing anything. I need that still time in my head. It’s hard to explain but I can’t start if I don’t feel that it’s the right time. Not that I don’t know what to paint, that’s usually perfectly clear in my mind. I need to get used to the format, visualizing forms and colors in my head. It’s an intimate moment between me and the blank canvas that’s crucial to my practice. I guess it’s my own form of spirituality.

Tell us the inspiration behind your works?

I don’t like to explain too much about the meaning of a painting and there is a lot to guess with the title of this one. I wanted to create a story about how it’s important to have dreams but too much expectations can be vicious and dangerous. Especially love expectations. They can burn your wings. Icarus should have been satisfied with the present moment instead of always wanting more.

Something in the future you hope to explore? 

I’m moving towards realistic paintings and leaving abstraction. This is how I see my practice for the near future.