Laurence de Valmy: Appropriation and Social Media
Laurence de Valmy is a French American and lives in Philadelphia, USA. She invites us to reflect on the links between artists through times and the relationship between Art and today’s social media. Inspired by the personal stories of artists, she revisits Art History through anachronic Instagram of the past. In her POST paintings, she combines iconic artworks skillfully appropriated with imagined conversations, historically accurate yet humorous. By telling the stories behind these artworks, the artist leads us to consider them with a new eye.
How did this idea of POSTS come to life?
It’s the merging of a few ideas. I was working in a photorealistic style and therefore I was often told that my paintings looked like photos. At the same time, I was observing with interest how artists were using social media and Instagram in particular and thought it could be fun to create paintings that look like photos on Instagram. Since I am a fan of art history and, in particular, of art stories, I got this idea to create these Posts of the past combining the appropriated artwork with dialogues to share the stories behind the art.
What is appropriation in art?
Appropriation is the use of pre-existing creations, objects or images, in a new piece of art, to give it a new meaning. It’s a long-lasting tradition since artists always have built upon the legacy of what was created before. When Manet painted “Olympia”, he appropriated the “Grande Odalisque” by Ingres. Closer to us, appropriation became big in the sixties with pop artists and it’s quite widely used in contemporary art.
To you, what’s the relationship between art and social media today?
Just as photography at the end of the 19th Century has democratized access to art, I believe social media can contribute to that democratization. For artists, it gives them the freedom to connect in a direct way across the world. It enabled me to meet artists everywhere and to be discovered by several collectors and galleries so I’ve had a direct experience of the power of that tool. Of course, it also puts some pressure to create content regularly but it becomes part of the job.
What’s the link between the hashtag you created and the pieces themselves?
Nothing is there by chance! All my dialogues are fact-based. I dig into biographies and interviews to find the right quote and of course, I have to “translate” it to social media language. I have a few lines to share a story so I have to be concise and hashtags, as well as emojis, are a great shortcut. I share all the details of the actual story in more depth on my website. Each painting is associated with its story and the sources I used.
You revisit Art History throughout your work, could you explain the process of creation of one of your pieces?
It starts with an artwork that I like, a story I read. Sometimes it happens through an exchange with a collector. For example, I created a commission for Hubert Burda (Ed German billionaire publisher). It was exciting to create a painting for a person who had himself commissioned Warhol! This POST painting tells the story of their collaboration and is now part of the Burda collection. Once I’ve selected the artwork and its story, then comes the studio part with the actual painting.
The very first step is canvas preparation: I like them to be smooth so I coat them with gesso and sand them until they are soft. Once I have chosen the image, I print it the same size as the finished painting to get all the details. I paint with acrylics and it's fun to recreate artworks painted in oils, encaustic or gold leaf with this medium. One of the challenges is to pick the right colours because photos modify them. I study several photos to assess them as best as I can. The dialogues and dates are accurate and based on my research. I use quotes or interviews with the artists that I include in the dialogues. My goal is to show the links between the artist and his friends, art dealers, collectors or muse. I try to be as close as possible to the personality of the artist and convey his message in just a few words. Then, I varnish the painting to give it a glossy touch and to preserve it.
Who’s your favourite artist out of the ones you revisited?
I have a longtime fondness for Edouard Manet and David Hockney for their artworks and their personalities. More recently I got inspired by Hilma Af Klint and other women artists in an effort to develop awareness about them. That’s how I got to collaborate with Art Girl Rising and Kahn Gallery.
How did you react when HBO selected one of your paintings for their latest series “The Undoing”?
It was thrilling! They had selected a few paintings of mine through Michele Mariaud Gallery but then for obvious confidentiality reasons, I did not know which one would appear and if it would appear at all. So, it was very exciting when I saw my work at the end of the 4th episode. I am lucky to be featured in such a successful series, in which art plays such an important role.
How did you adjust to working during the 2020 lockdowns?
I am lucky to have a home studio so I could go on with my work. The hard part was the cancellation of fairs and exhibitions. But galleries have been agile and I had some exhibitions when possible like Cosmopolis in NYC with Azart Gallery and they also turned to online exhibitions which I believe are there to stay. Range of Art Gallery in Honfleur, France does both a physical and 3D room and I am part of online exhibitions such as REDis curated by Sergio Gomez, PRELUDE with Artcan.org. I will also be celebrating Women History Month with Singulart, Kahn Gallery and Feminist Connect among other projects.
What’s your next project?
On top of these exhibitions, I am working on a new body of work titled #HashtagsareART. This tool was created to identify and regroup images, but it’s now part of our language. I am playing with this and the aesthetics of Instagram stories among other things.