Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Painting in France: An Interview with Fine Artist Frédérique Lavergne

(c) Copyright Frédérique Lavergne
Painting in France: An Interview with Fine Artist Frédérique Lavergne
by Gina McKnight

Archived interview from the January 2018 Issue of Arabian Finish Line.
No duplication without permission.

“Arabian horses seem to live above the floor.”

From her large studio window, overlooking her perennial garden and beautiful horses, Frédérique Lavergne loves to paint. The romance of the French countryside, coupled with the smell of horses and fragrant woodland, enhances Frédérique’s creativity. Frédérique writes, “I need to be connected with horses. This is all I need to feel good for painting.”

A world-renowned artist, I caught up with Frédérique and we talked about her art and life with horses…

GM: What sets the Arabian Horse apart from other horse breeds?
FL: Arabian horses seem to live above the floor, just like if they were constantly flying. A legend says they were created from the wind, but this sounds real when you see them moving, with the nose open, just like if they were breathing the wind which created them. Didn't God say, "I will make you fly without wings”? See the moving, so lightly, a bit like cats do, so proudly, remembering who they are, and where they come from.

GM: That is a profound description of the Arabian horse! You know them well, Frédérique! When commissioning a portrait of a horse, what do you require?
FL: When I am commissioned, I appreciate to receive several photos, or videos. If I can't meet the horse himself, I need the photos or videos to catch his spirit and soul. Because if you only paint the outside of the horse, his image, the portrait won't reflect who he is, which is the most important to put on the canvas. I also need to have a description from the owner, the way he sees the horse, what he shares with him, where the painting will be hanged (even if possible, a picture of the room where it will be). This is to catch what the client wants to see on the painting, which side of the personality of the horse. Because a horse can be seen very differently by two people, and when I do a commission, I want the client to have his horse, seen by himself, but painted by me on the canvas. When I do a commission, I want to paint the horse like the client would do if he could do it himself. Remains from me of course, my strokes, my way of composing, how I understood the horse and the relationship he has with his owner.

GM: Your art is truly stunning. You capture the essence so beautifully. What mediums do you use to create a masterpiece?
FL: I paint with oil on canvas, or paper. I use brushes or palette knife. When I draw, I use black stone, which is the pencil that was used by the Dutch master to do the sketches on the canvases before painting. I like these because they are deep black, as charcoal, but not powdery. I use white chalk also, ink and walnut tint

GM: Does lighting and environment play an important role in the finished portrait?
FL: Lighting is essential in my way of painting. It’s because, as I said before, I don’t want to paint only the "surfacing image" even as beautiful as it is. I want to paint the soul and the spirit of the horse. What makes him be what he his. And this is a kind of mystery which needs to pop out from the dark, or to stay a bit in a chiaroscuro, because the soul can't be entirely seen and understood.

GM: You have so many lovely portraits that are my favorites. Do you have a favorite Arabian portrait from your own collection?  
FL: My favorite Arabian portrait from me is the one on black background. 

GM: Portraying all horse breeds, where has been your best encounter with horses?
FL: I could say first that wherever I can meet a horse is the right place. But really meet them, not just see. I need time with a horse. I need to touch him, to smell him, to feel him. And whatever breed he his, the encounter happens...  I especially had that kind of experience in Portugal, but recently, I have been twice in Mongolia, in June (summer) and January (winter!). I was with breeders, and their horses which live so differently than our horses live. Total liberty, food autonomy, not a lot of contacts with humans. I was thrilled to discover horses as they really are.

GM: Experiencing horses in their natural habit with minimal human contact must have been exhilarating! I know your paintings travel around the world. Where are you currently exhibiting?  
FL: I am currently exhibiting in US, Red Hook, New York, Equus Art Gallery; in Ireland Greenlane Gallery; in Italy, Firenze, Porcellino Gallery; in France, Rouge Garance Gallery and L'Art en tete Gallery.

GM: From my last conversation with you, I remember you mentor novice artists. Do you have advice for starting equine artists?
FL: I have been doing that full-time job since 2000. And sincerely, I would say to any beginner, keep a job out of art. Just to avoid the pressure on your art. The best way to live it, is, if possible, to never depend financially of it. Because when you need to get money each month from your painting, the challenge is really harsh to produce real deep pieces. Just as if you were just painting to express your passion for horses and art. It’s possible, but really difficult because you must go on painting, year after year, just as if you were not waiting for people to like the result, but just to express your talent thrust the tribute to horses.

GM: As an avid horse-lover, knowing both the spiritual and physical attributes of horses, what does horsemanship mean to you?
FL: First of all, real horsemanship isn't possible without connection. in any discipline. I have learnt this with my own horse. I have had two accidents, and haven’t been able to ride. I was wondering what I could do with my horse, I wanted to keep a relation with him, but I couldn't even take him for a walk or grazing. I had my knee broken, then a surgery, and a year after I had five ribs broken and lung perforated. I couldn't take the risk to get pulled by the rope if the horse moved his head too quick. So, I tried to work through "comportemental approach" at liberty, without being close to him at all. Connection is essential then!! And after that, I learnt that the connection you create, helps a lot in any equestrian discipline you practice.

Since I went to Mongolia, horsemanship has got a new meaning to me. Now, my way is mostly to stand with horses and learn from them. Not asking anything. Just studying their behavior, and trying to catch what they have to "tell" us, what they are telling from their link to universe. I also met Jean Francois Pignon and his horses recently. I have learnt a lot from him. The possibility of getting things from horses just with "talking-horse". We often try to make the horse learn things from us, but we do it with the language we think horses can understand. Maybe this is not wrong, but what I am sure of now, is that it is not the more direct and efficient way. This way is to learn how to talk-horse. Jean Francois Pignon shows evidence of this. It is so rich and full of emotions! It feeds my creativity.

Connect with Frédérique…

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio USA. gmcknight.com

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