Interview: Painter Flora Moscovici

Editor Carrie Seitzinger, Interview, March 2nd, 2013

In painting, emotions expressed by color and gesture can be linked to architectural spaces.

Flora Moscovici
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Flora Moscovici is a painter who lives and works in Paris. Carrie Seitzinger, who conducted this interview, and Moscovici met in Rotterdam, Netherlands earlier in 2012, while each was enrolled in writing and art residencies at Kaus Australis and Kunst & Complex, respectively.

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NAILED: How do you find inspiration? Describe your art making process, what materials you use, and how your installations develop from the spaces you use to create from.

FLORA MOSCOVICI: Right now the most important part of my work is site-specific paintings. Therefore I will explain the way I find inspiration in this particular case, but it may be a little different for another kind of piece. Usually I have an opportunity to exhibit in a place and I get inspired by it: by the architecture, the shapes of the construction, the materials, the colors, everything that makes this place specific. I spend a lot of time observing and imagining a certain atmosphere proper to the space.

It’s about feelings, emotions that are expressed by color and gesture and are intimately linked to the space. I use paint most of the time, very diluted so it is really a second skin for the building without thickness and so with less materiality. The transparencies, the differences between the shades of color, all of this participates to create a language of emotions inspired by the space where it takes place. The architecture becomes a frame for an abstract gestural painting that plays with the mural painting already there.

NAILED: Would you describe your latest project, Le Bois Dormant? What emotions came up for you at this site? How did you choose to work with the space?

flora moscovici le boit dormant

MOSCOVICI: I also get inspired by the surroundings and this is the case for Le Bois Dormant. I worked in a narrow corridor of a small castle that was surrounded by a park, or let’s say it was more of a green with a small wood around it. So I decided to bring this forest atmosphere inside by using a gradation of greens taken from the trees of the park. The movement came from the architecture: the shape of the walls with the slop of the ceiling looked a bit like a wave and it went well with this idea of invasion by painting.

The alcoves permitted some hidden parts that you discover afterwards. Also this corridor was like a long line and I made the piece as a promenade by covering the space from one point to another. It is also the idea of a multitude of points of view for the visitor, as when you stroll in a big landscape. There are several paintings inside the painting that express emotions about an imaginary space. But it’s a little bit like in Mary Poppins, in fact it’s just the real space, a bit of color and imagination and suddenly you’re elsewhere.

NAILED: Which of your installations was your favorite or most personal for you?

MOSCOVICI: I would say the last one, Le Bois Dormant. Because this is maybe the most emotional painting I did. And also because it was a wonderful experience to work in this castle and I met some fabulous people there.

flora moscovici le boit dormant detailNAILED: How is it for you, once you have completed an installation and you have to leave it behind? Are all of the installations preserved after you are finished or are some destroyed? Do you ever want to take a piece of them with you?

MOSCOVICI: I don’t feel sad to leave an installation behind. I don’t need to possess it like an object. The most important part for me is that it exists at one moment. Most of my site-specific works are temporary, I make them for an exhibition and then the walls need to be white again. But it isn’t really disturbing, I’m focused on the realization, on the final result and it doesn’t matter if it stays one day or forever. Of course, when the piece is preserved I’m happy because I know I can see it again and especially because some people will enjoy it during a long time.

NAILED: What was your process for the installation, Les Travaux? How did you interpret the space and come up with this painting?

MOSCOVICI: Les Travaux is a particular piece because I used a lot of the pictorial and social history of the place to do it. There was a small room inside a big studio that used to be the living space. Some windows permitted one to see through it and there was also a mezzanine where people used to sleep. Under it was really like a small cabin with some old coats of paint in a strange color (kind of salmon). For this project it was very important to use these pictorial signs of the place’s life. That was my point of departure. Then I wanted to include some actions and gestures next to the previous ones. There was a white wall that used to be yellow and I sanded it to reveal this previous color.

I also used the height limit of the salmon painting inside as a mark to create an orange painting on the outside walls and you could see the hand in the way of painting in both cases. These are examples but it was a complicated process because there were many different actions made in this place and the aim was to create a confusion between the “decoration” painting and the art piece. In a way I wanted this place to become like a child cabin, a little palace under the roof but where you don’t know which is the part that always used to be there and which was added to make it a bit unreal, magical.

NAILED: As an artist in Paris, what impressions do you and your colleagues have of art that comes out of the U.S.? Do you feel like there is a difference of politics or subject matter or ideology? Given the lack of government subsidy of the fine arts in the states, do you think that makes a difference in the way French/European artists think of their work and their careers?

flora moscovici Les Travaux

MOSCOVICI: It is a bit difficult to think the art from the U.S. as an entity. I always think about individual artists, never as a whole. Of course, art is always regarding its time and culture and so Andy Warhol could not be European for example and neither could Richard Prince or even Elizabeth Peyton because they all make work about the American society. So yes, some subjects are specific to the country. I think about James Turrell now. It isn’t a coincidence if he makes work about infinite spaces and was born in a country where there are huge landscapes…

So I don’t think there is an American art but it seems art is often connected to the background of the artist, so too, the time, the place, what is happening in the society, the personal experience of life… And at the end it is a vision of what the artist is sensitive to, a perception of a part of the world in a way.

flora moscovici Les Travaux detailNevertheless the fact of having government subsidy or not can influence the way to make art. There may be more art pieces that are not really “sellable” in Europe, that are not objects but actions, performances, conferences, works with documents, archives, all this is may be more possible in Europe than in the U.S. Even though there are many different ways of making art in the U.S., it seems still more important for an artist there to be able to sell his art. But I may be wrong, I would like to have your opinion about this too…

NAILED: You bring up some good points. I also tend to look at an artist, visual or literary, as an individual, but I am aware that this is a generous way of looking at them. Oftentimes art is made to be “sellable” across all mediums in the U.S. Even though this is very common, it still comes as a great surprise to me to hear colleagues admit that this is what they desire most from their art. It is interesting that having government subsidy in the U.S. could actually help temper the marketing frenzy around art here.

NAILED: When was the last time you nailed it?

MOSCOVICI: I can’t remember. Actually I think my work is not about perfection or doing something well finished. It seems to me that the expression “to nail it” on the contrary expresses something well done and ended. I try to be in a certain temporality that is more about a moment, an emotion, something furtive, so in a way I work with the idea of imperfection and incompletion.

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Flora Moscovici is a painter born in 1985 in Paris. She graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts Paris-Cergy, and had traveled throughout Europe and Canada for exhibitions or artist residencies, and also in order to discover different artistic environments. Her work focuses on site specific paintings and installations that deal with places crossed by human bodies, architecture, and intimate, imaginary space. Learn more about her work at her official website.

[Carrie Seitzinger conducted this interview over email during the winter of 2012/13. All photos courtesy the artist.]

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Carrie Seitzinger

Carrie Seitzinger is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Seitzinger is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.
Learn more about her at her official site.