Florencia Clement de Grandprey
A French-American artist born in Spain, Florencia Clement de Grandprey aims to empower and inspire people through her work. Speak Your Truth from 2019 encourages the viewer to find their voice, eliciting a sense of clarity and confidence. She believes that we are free only when we can speak our truth.
As a self-taught artist, what were the challenges you faced in carving a name for yourself in the field of art?
I believe all artists, independent of having formal training or not, have pretty much the same challenges making a name for themselves. Ultimately, it’s about finding one’s own voice and a unique style which is recognisable. Perhaps, my biggest challenge is dealing with the feeling of needing to "make up for lost time", as I started painting full time in late 2014, when I was already in my 40s. In a way, this has pushed me to focus even more on polishing my craft, and putting myself out there to spread empowering and inspiring messages through my artwork.
How would you describe your art works?
I create pieces that focus not only on the aesthetics but are also meaningful, empowering and inspiring. Technically speaking, it is best described as mixed media figurative artwork. I paint to celebrate us as perfectly imperfect beings by bringing out our strengths and our beauty, to use as a reminder of who we really are and to say "I see you and honour you". One of the advantages of being self-taught is that I don’t feel limited by traditional methods.
I have several styles that have evolved as I’ve developed new techniques in my constant exploration. When I first began my artistic career, I painted on canvas to which I added collaged wallpaper samples for the background and fabric samples to "dress" my subjects. After three years, I began painting directly on fabric and fell in love with combining the patterns in the fabric with the actual painting, giving it an added dimension. From there, I started painting on area rugs and incorporate the beautiful designs of the rugs into the portraits I create on them… This is the technique I’m using for my latest series, "Guardians of Sacred Space", which consists of my largest pieces to date, the largest being 240x318cm.
My energy is reflected in all my artwork and it will be infused with high vibrations the higher my energy is, too. This is why I only paint when my energy levels are optimal and I’m inspired.
You have dabbled in various jobs including cabin crew and have trained as an airline pilot. What led you to choose art as your career?
After my career in aviation, I worked in high-end interior design for nearly 15 years, where I was exposed to rich fabrics, patterns and textures and other materials, which reignited my artistic passion. My choice of becoming a full-time artist came after many years of frustration and a constant feeling of needing to be more creative. I finally listened to my heart and followed my calling when I hit rock bottom. Art is what makes me want to wake up every day and brings me more pleasure and satisfaction, on a soul level, than any of my previous jobs.
You portray proud elegant and confident men and women in your works. How do you go about achieving it? What are the elements that you think define your works?
As I mainly focus on portraits, I believe the eyes are the most important feature and the "windows to our soul". They communicate so much…and through them we can bridge the gap between the subject and the observer. Pride is shown in the stance, the pose of the body and head. Elegance is also in the pose but greatly in the choice of materials and fabrics complimenting the subject. Confidence is mainly seen in the eyes and through a direct look.
A few basic elements are love and passion, which is an immeasurable element but that I invariably add to every piece I create as I feel a deep connection with my work.
You also believe in repurposing materials. What led you to go eco-friendly?
During my years of working in interior design, I collected many beautiful fabric and wall paper samples that were often disposed of at the end of the projects or when the seasons changed. I couldn’t bear to see the waste and decided to incorporate all these samples into my artwork.
As part of my artistic exploration, I’ve even painted on vinyl records and computer diskettes.
Apart from being an artist you are also a makeup artist. How much does one influence the other?
Although I have always painted, I did begin makeup artistry before I had done any portraiture. Having this up-close experience of working on people’s faces definitely helped me understand the anatomy and physiology behind portraiture. Applying makeup works with the same principles as painting. Pretty much all of it is about colour, shading, light, texture and defining features. I think, at this stage, I use my knowledge and experience in both areas interchangeably.
Who/what are your muses? Your inspiration?
I combine my love of the classic masters with contemporary design flair to produce mixed media paintings. I especially love Gustav Klimt’s artwork which is rich in colours and textures and has influenced much of my own work.
When I paint, I’m painting as much for myself as for others. I am in every one of my paintings and hope that others can recognize themselves in at least one of them too, which is why I try to also represent a variety of ethnicities.
I use each painting as an exercise to improve not only my artistic abilities but also myself as a human, by recognizing and accepting in me what is also in others. Human nature is a huge source of inspiration to me.
Another great source of inspiration are my clients as I love creating unique custom artwork to fit their beautiful spaces, their décor and their dreams. I listen carefully to their needs and preferences and, when possible, visit their homes to better envision the context in which the painting will hang. Most importantly, I try to capture a feeling, an emotion or message that they would like to transmit with my artwork.
What do you like and dislike about the world of art? How do you plan to make a difference to the world of art?
What I like is the variety and the fact that art transcends language, culture and country barriers. What I dislike is that sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between talent and recognition. I plan to make a difference to the world of art by, above all, being authentic and true to myself and by delivering my message of empowerment and inspiration on new surfaces while breaking away from more traditional backgrounds.
What measures do you think should be taken to get art closer to people?
The most basic and important measure is to teach and encourage art as part of school programs, starting at an early age and continuing throughout the children’s education. Another effective way is to have great cultural programs such as the ones developed by the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. The foundation has brought art to the people through the annual RAK Fine Arts Festival and multiple activities involving art and culture to enrich its citizens and expose them to art from around the world. The broadcasting of such programs and the art fairs through TV and social media is also effective in reaching even more people and the younger generation who are immersed in the digital age of internet.
Making art accessible, such as granting free admission to see the artwork and free courses encourages everyone to enjoy it and in turn brings it closer to everyone. Making art part of everyday life creates art appreciation and is one of the pillars of a rich culture.
For more details, visit facebook.com/ArtbyFlorencia and @ArtbyFlorencia (Instagram).
Gregory Spaw and Lee-Su Huang
Gregory Spaw and Lee-Su Huang explore the philosophy of "quiet technology" in their creations. The duo, who met while doing their master’s studies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, say their differing backgrounds and viewpoints have allowed them to produce new ideas in their practice, particularly in integrating technology into the environment in "beautiful and natural ways".
Tell us a bit more about your projects. What do you attempt to say/discuss through your works?
Our creative agenda focuses on harnessing computation, digital fabrication, and material studies toward novel pursuits that reinterpret nature and the built environment. Our most recent work, of which InterLattice is a telling example, is leveraging the precision of industrial robots using custom tools to bend and interweave metal tubes in loops that allude to humanity’s complex and interconnected dependency with nature. We have an optimistic outlook on the integration of technology into the environment in beautiful and natural ways, and how it can reframe the way we experience the world.
How did you meet? What brought you together to work on the projects?
We met at the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design during our Master of Architecture studies and have been working together ever since in our design practice, SHO. Our initial collaboration in graduate school was as much by chance than anything else, and throughout the process we both realised the rarity of finding a colleague with the ability to question and push each others’ ideas and capitalise on the tension originating from differing viewpoints. Our collaboration has been fruitful because of our varied backgrounds and experiences; Lee-Su’s upbringing in Taiwan but currently in the United States, and Gregory’s grounding in the United States but having moved to the UAE five years ago. As it turned out our first proper SHO project was completed as we were graduating, and we have continued to remotely work together ever since.
What are you attempting to highlight through your works?
Our work engages notions of the simple yet complex, and the philosophy of "quiet technology" that is ever-present yet fades into the background so you almost don’t notice it. The current piece, InterLattice, is a simple yet striking geometric form that has surprising complexity to it once you pause a moment to decipher it. There are two continuous color-coded loops that have been folded upon themselves five times and interwoven to support each other, evoking themes of cycles, unity, as well as nature and humanity’s complex interconnected dependency that is inextricably linked. The central "trunk" has a seemingly impossible interweaving of elements that is similar to the trunks of Banyan trees, where strands of individual roots come together to form the greater trunk. That is something that is sorely missed in the pandemic, since pictures don’t convey the nuance and details are lost without the ability to comprehend it spatially or follow and trace the loops with your own eyes.
How do you think Covid has changed people’s sensibilities including in the area of art?
Our global culture has been so focused on the digital for the past two decades, that the pandemic has been a wake-up call and reaffirmed our need for the physical and tangible. While we are lucky to be living in an era that has allowed many of us to carry on with our digital lives, it is hard to imagine that collectively we aren’t yearning to once again connect and experience physical artifacts and environments around us. For some the pandemic has been an opportunity to get out, explore, and appreciate the relative safety and awe of the natural world beyond our screens, serving to highlight the value of in-person, physical being.
Do you find an appreciative audience here?
While we have had our interactive work exhibited at notable museums, galleries and festivals in the United States, we are just now starting to find an audience for our work here in the UAE, and tapping into the deep traditions of geometry in Arabic culture and art. In this way the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Art Festival has been a great venue for us to reach a broader audience while juxtaposing the geometric and material qualities of our piece to the pure phenomenological beauty of the Al Jazirah Al Hamra Heritage Village.
Do you think people’s interest in art has increased over the years? And if yes, what would you ascribe that to?
As technology and AI gradually take over production-oriented tasks (we are bending pipes to extreme precision with robots, remember?), people turn their minds toward outlets for creativity. Pair this with the explosion of social media platforms, and anyone can create and generate exposure, just by putting things out there. Artists and creators can build their own followings without reliance on mainstream media, a democratization of exposure in a sense. Simultaneously art in all its diverse forms is much more commonplace, and doesn’t exclusively rely on elite institutions to showcase and promote it. We definitely hope to see more creators and purveyors of art in the near future!
What measures do you think should be taken to get art closer to people?
There is a considerable amount of joy and wonder that art can elicit in our daily lives, so any effort to make it a more common occurrence has the potential to meaningfully impact society and humanity more broadly. Cultural juxtaposition reframes one’s worldview constantly, and is a productive tension that forces reassessment of the locally commonplace in a global context, and connecting to that gives more meaning to the local and the present. It should not be a foreign thing, and sharing viewpoints helps us all to realise and appreciate the beauty that is all around us.