Juliette Lemontey (France)

The artist Juliette Lemontey, has shown her work in group and solo exhibitions in San Francisco and all over Europe. Lemontey is always open to inspiration: “everything I see feeds me,” she says, influenced by a wide range of sources, including Japanese woodblock prints, etching techniques, and the vibrantly colored textiles of Asia and the Middle East.

Her large-scale paintings portray figures in various states of relâchement: simultaneously relaxing, and, as Lemontey puts it, “slipping away, falling apart.” At first glance, the figures seem to be in repose, burrowed amid the waves of striped and florid bedding, like a woman peacefully napping in a garden. Their bodies curve sensually across the canvas, taking up most of the frame. But look closer, and you see that these sleepers have a more complex story to tell: they grip their pillows tightly, as if for protection; their hands are curled into tense knots. They appear to be in a state of limbo. “Their bodies are here,” says Lemontey, “but their minds are elsewhere.” They are at once vulnerable, prone, and yet inaccessible, their thoughts turned inwards. There is a power in that.

Instead of using traditional canvas, Lemontey paints her figures on antique linen sheets, salvaged from attics and flea markets across France. Like the old masters, she mixes her paints herself, using pigment powders, turpentine, and linseed oil, eschewing manufactured, pre-mixed tubes. A wash of coffee or walnut ink, typically used in France to tint wood, stands in for the flesh of her figures, sometimes taking on a mottled appearance in places where it pooled on the canvas. Lemontey delights in the uncertainty of the process: “I like to keep ‘accidents’ in my work; I like to be surprised and to deal with the unexpected.”

Text by Jaime Gillin
Images © Juliette Lemontey provided by Artist

[more Juliette Lemontey]