In the Studio with Lucile Haefflinger

In the studio with Lucile Haefflinger, whose works are drawn to a gentle cruelty, intimacy and violence through their practice. We met with Lucile to tell us more about growing up in the countryside north of France their greatest influences, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

 Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I am from the countryside in the north of  France. Growing up, I used to scrape the soil in hopes of finding dinosaur’s fossils. I used to carry leaves and snails or bugs in my pockets terrorizing my classmates with them. I guess I haven’t changed that much.

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

I did my bachelor’s at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam, in the TXT (text and textile) department. During these four years I developed my love and understanding of textile: its production, it’s structure, it’s practical and sacred functions, in both everyday life and larger cultural and economic spheres. The textile I cherish in my everyday life absorbs memories and emotions, becoming layered and porous. We use these layers to represent and express, but also to protect ourselves. Clothing forms a layered space where elements with diverse histories pile together and interact, sometimes enmeshing, sometimes abrading. Each garment too is a palimpsest, in which stains and holes invite alteration and the addition of new material over time. 

This idea of constant wearing and altering stays in my mind while drawing and painting. Between 2019-2021 I studied on the postgraduate programme at the Royal Drawing School, which focuses on using observational drawing as a grounding for one’s studio practice.  

The course challenged me to draw the cityscapes and people immediately around me. Through observing them, I am wondering about the importance of gender and the binary norm in my own identity and in our larger society. I want to raise an awareness that we are all individuals with various evolving capacities, not to be limited and placed within a designated square of inherent qualities. Since finishing my studies at the Royal Drawing School I have been working on a series of paintings which combine my linear drawing approach with a focus on the textures, layering and scraping made possible by using oil paint.

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic? 

Often I draw by scratching and slicing into patches of pigment and glue, or scraping an idea into fresh oil paint. The soft, bodily quality of a brush in one hand, a ragged blade in the other. These images feel like they are excavated and found, as much as they are created.

The lines gather and begin to suggest. One can grasp traces of ideas, of actions, to follow them like a hunter would follow a trail. I can return to drawings I’ve made and pull at a thread of thought; I recollect my actions, my feelings, as well as the information I have registered on my way.

Who/what are your greatest influences?  

Everything that surrounds me  is  an influence: books that I read, movies that I watch, where I travel and live, people I meet and know already. I am interested in painting my everyday life, what I can touch and see.

An unexpected source of inspiration?

Observing people is my joy. Everything is interesting: a couple in too tight clothing laughing out loud while squeezing each other slightly, someone flexing a muscle bigger than a small dog passing by, a belly catching the sun lazily. It is not in mockery but in fascination that I observe these local characters and try to capture them on paper.

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

I do not think of an audience when I am painting but I hope it will  make them react in any way: nostalgie, tenderness, disgust…etc.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you experiment?

I am always interested in exploring new materials and mixing everything together. I recently started oil painting, which is for now a constant form of experiment. It’s a medium of many possibilities that I am still trying to find my path in. 

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

A good selection of music as well as a messy studio and much stubbornness and annoyance result sometimes in an interesting piece of work.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

There is always more to explore and learn. I would like to take a royal drawing school class named “challenging interiors” to have a better understanding of space.

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?

Trying to remember what to do” was made from the memory of my childhood living room carved into multiple layers of gouache. I collaged paper together, playing with their different qualities, wondering what to do with expectation of a world of yesterday and tomorrow.