French-born, Brussels-based artist Caroline Le Méhauté’s oeuvre exists within the realm of space and matter. With both subliminal and subtle undertones, the work she creates, as she puts it, “comes close to a sort of out of place artefact, an object created without space, that finds itself between the known and the unknown.” In an in-depth interview, we speak to the artist as her work goes on show at this weekend’s edition of Art on Paper at Bozar.
Can you talk to us about your approach in general? What characterises your work?
My work can be read in many different ways; ontologically, topologically, metaphysically, philosophically and poetically. My pieces will never reveal themselves entirely, and are present both in force and in silence. My artistic approach is very clearly directed towards space and matter. Turf, a material that comes from a fragile ecosystem and that goes back millions of years, is the first and foremost element in my work. Then, when placed in a space, their materiality invites the viewer to obtain a physical relationship with the object, which can be at times very frontal and direct, and at times by pure immersion. What I create comes close to a sort of out of place artefact, an object created without space, that finds itself between the known and the unknown, in such a way that it is impossible to recognise completely to which time, to which space or to which civilisation it belongs.
How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?
I always start by writing down sketches, ideas and notes in a small book. It’s a process that allows me to see the lines that appear between the pieces still in the making. When the actual creative process begins, there’s room for modifications and adjustments. I always keep a close relationship towards the space in which the oeuvre will be installed, and towards the space of perception, which is instrumental when it comes to most of my artistic decisions. I always create several pieces at the same time, as they are often linked to an intellectual process that binds them together.
Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?
Certain teachers at the Fine Arts Academy. Then there was the support and the trust of my entire entourage; my friends, family, colleagues, collectors, gallerists and curators. Their enthusiasm towards my work is more than precious.
What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?
Belgium is a place where living is easy, and offers an open platform towards the international art scene. There’s an enormous community of artists, collectors, galleries and museums, and a curious and present public. This balance and this energy have made me it possible for me to create my most elaborate and crazy projects.
How do you see yourself fit into the country’s contemporary art scene?
Things happen in a natural, continual and constructive manner. I’m at a very blossoming stage at the moment, thanks to the growing interest the public has for my work, and the trust people have in my decisions, which is a true motor for creation, and which motivates me to go even further.
Talk to us about the people around you, your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?
The opinions and perceptions of my colleagues on the world that surrounds us is crucial. We can’t just satisfy ourselves with just our own vision. Engaging in constructive discussion is one of my favourite ways to pass the time, as two opinions will always create a third one.
What does success look like to you?
For me personally, to succeed is to reinvent yourself, to make the impossible possible, to add one more brick to the artistic building, the continuous search and the ability to remain sensitive to the world that surrounds us, to continue to intensely share my works with the public, and lastly, to have the means to continue my creative process. This success can not be achieved alone, as it is also linked to all the artistic stakeholders. Artistic development doesn’t just come from an individual basis, it is achieved through a dialogue with others.
To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?
For one, freedom of expression, but also a watchdog of democracy. Art has, in my opinion, the mission to go past the beaten path. Art can pose new questions, and offer the spectator a deeper understanding and a deeper vision, one that goes further than the one often imposed on us by the world we live in.
Which Belgian artists do you follow, look at for inspiration? Either from the past or the present.
The first one that comes to mind is Réné Magritte, as surrealism is still a daily reality in Belgium and for Belgians. His work makes me smile every time I see it. Then there’s Marcel Broodthaers and Panamarenko, and the contemporary artists Edith Dekyndt and Peter Buggenhout.
On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work?
I’m often on the move for my exhibitions, residencies, and also simply for my quest for materials. These new contexts and the discussions I have linked to the people I meet during these short travels turn my everyday into something bright. Nonetheless, I regularly feel the need to take some distance from the city by hiking in more ‘wild’ landscapes. I’m thinking of Iceland, Norway, Ireland and deserts. But the news, lectures, movies and contemporary dance performances are equally a part of my ‘daily diet’.
And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?
They appreciate what I do and they follow my progress closely. And although my parents might sometimes be worried about my uncertain future as an artist, they have always encouraged me to be who I am.carolinelemehaute.com