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SOAPOPERA MEETS LOUIS THOMAS

// The Parisian illustrator who caught our attention (and stole our heart)

AN INTERVIEW BY AMANDA BALLERINI

For this SoapInterview we meet the absolutely lovely and intriguing Parisian illustrator Louis Thomas,
a poetical young man who is looking more for the everyday’s poetry in reality than searching for an escape elsewhere.
How it is to portray a modern feminine kind of beauty from the eyes a self defined ‘old fashioned cliche’ like Louis?

Here is my tete-a-tete with the dreamy Louis and his hypnotised creatures coming from closer than what we think.


Amanda. Hi Louis. It’s a pleasure to have you here at SoapOpera. I’m curious to know about your life.
What’s your everyday’s environment ? Where do you live and work from ?
Louis. I live in Paris, by the Luxembourg garden and the Pantheon with my cat Pipo, and I have an atelier where I spend most of my time when I work on paintings.
I also travel about 5 months every year since I can work from wherever I want, and work on children books or illustrations while I am travelling with my cat.

Amanda. What’s the most intriguing thing about drawing a woman? Are you trying to ‘catch’ her soul while portraying her?
Louis. I am mostly intrigued by people in general, my last show was about a big diversity of people.
So for women, I am curious (as for men or even animals) by their soul, the eyes mostly and the way I can reflect how I see people as a person, not just as a figure.
Here I would like to quote one of the great portraitist Alice Neel: “I have this overweening interest in humanity. Even if I’m not working I’m still analysing people… I am a collector of souls”.
However, for this show, I was more looking for graphic changes in my work, trying to work on my “style” I guess.

Amanda. What draws you the most when starting a paint ? Is there a particular moment when you feel the inspiration taking over ?
Louis. I am in love with the gesture, and the simple and naive effect of tracing a line, it still fascinates me at 29.

Amanda. You seem to love animals and i find an hypnotising elegance in the drawings you do about them. How are you fascinated by them in your real life ?
Louis. Well first thank you again, I am really hypnotised by life and I feel I am slow to process things in my head. I can really spend a lot of time looking at something or someone.
Animals are a perfect subject as we just call them “animals” but in reality they are thousands of diverse species which are so different.
There is no single one similar to another one and sometimes we tend to forget it. I love diversity in life and in general.

Amanda. Talking about your children’s books work.
If you were asked to, how would you represent the new ‘digital’ world to a kid? What could be the potential representation of that through an image?
Louis. I guess I am a sort of old fashioned cliche?, but I would portray the digital world as a pretty cold world. I would show people hypnotised by screens, in a funny way I guess,
even though I think it’s scary.
Or perhaps some robots, everything clean and kind of shallow…

Amanda. Who exactly are you girls ?
Seeing your paintings I really want to know your women, who they are, what they think, where do they come from, and finally how and why you chose them.
Louis. 
For this show they were at first people I knew well, since I didn’t want to ask strangers to pose nude. Then there were friends of friends who apparently would be interested,
or people who couldn’t make it for the last show but were interested for this one.
As to describe them, you should interview them, they are all different people.
I think the reason why they are intriguing is because they are not really posing, they are more sitting here and waiting, because I paint from reality, not from pictures.
I hope that we can see the effect of time in my work, that’s a very important thing for me, not just the aesthetic figure, but the real person.

Amanda. Who are the real women in your life who inspire you in your work?
Louis. In my real life there would be my mom at first, she is a fashion designer and I grew up seeing her working at home, playing piano,
cooking and taking her time to do every small action. I am a lot like her.
Then my Aunt who is a pianist at the conservatory, she is a great person and lives out of her passion.
My sister for sure is inspiring, a young textile designer and the kindest soul you could ever meet.
Then there are women I don’t know but inspire me, there is the portraitist Alice Neel for sure, Marie Laurencin who literally inspired this serie (it’s quite obvious in my 3 or 4 first ones),
Pina Bausch who makes me cry each time I see her company’s work, Marguerite Duras who caught me on every book I read from her, the illustrator Noelle Lavaivre and so many others of course.

Amanda. How are they dressed? What do they wear in their lives?
Louis. They wear different things, some are more chic, others more casual.
I can’t tell really, for me clothes are a day to day thing, and these persons wear different things every day according to what they feel in that moment.

Amanda. In most of your paintings strong elements oppose to more delicate traits. Is this something you see in Your women as well?
Louis. Again, it is something I see in real life, because your eyes can’t focus on everything, so they focus on little details surrounded by big masses that can become the details later on…
I like to draw this idea of “details” for the eyes, hands and flowers, to exaggerate the fact that you need to focus on them.
As we can understand from the name of your coming exhibition, ‘FLEURS’, garden elements, plants and flowers seem more than a decoration in your paintings.
They somehow live in symbiosis with the subject of the painting itself.

Amanda. Why a coexisting present nature is so important to you?
Louis. I am obsessed with nature, I need it, and when I start a serie, I want to experiment a big spectre of the subjects I paint. If I had time
I would love to paint 100 different flowers from different continents and countries, with every variety of colour and shape possible and include all of them in one single paint.
Last year I wanted to paint people in their diversity so I painted 150 of them.
I had an interview recently where the journalist talked about all the symbols of flowers related to women, and to be completely honest, I paint flowers just cause I wanted to,
I am not looking for symbols.
Maybe it’s naive and stupid somehow but I really care about drawing, the gesture, more than what it means.
It’s just about the instant pleasure of drawing.

Amanda. Your ‘creatures’ seem to have a kind of serious attitude in the paintings, expressing a sustained elegance.
Your colours portray a certain dynamism instead, with strong and defined contrasting lines.
Is there a reason why I perceived this according to you?
Louis. They look serious because anyone who thinks, caught in his deep thoughts would not smile with a vivid look; they are in deep thoughts and look absorbed and kind of somewhere else, as their envelop was here but their soul elsewhere.
I call it the “subway syndrome” because here in paris people say that other people in the metro look unhappy; to me they just seem to be in their own thoughts,
which is not sadness, it’s more like introspection.
And there is no way you can see yourself like this, you can’t see yourself like this in a mirror or a picture, maybe only if a person took a picture of you without you noticing,
or painted you while you were in this status… This is quite incredible to me.

Amanda. I saw you spent some time in Italy. Which is the moment which inspired you the most?
Louis. I spend months in Italy, it’s my heart country. I am really at home in Paris and in Italy, almost everywhere in Italy for some reasons…!
The place which inspired me the most is Ginostra (a tiny village on the Stromboli island) where I spend a lot of time. At night you could watch the explosions of lava from the volcano.

Amanda. What are your main artistic and literary references?
Louis.  So:

– 6 children books
Crictor (Tomi Ungerer)
Les lunettes du lion (VILDRAC CHARLES illustre? par Noelle lavaivre)
Charlie et la chocolaterie (Roald Dahl illustre? par Quentin Blake)
Marcelin Caillou (Sempe?)
Madeline (Bemelmans)
Eloise (Hilary Knight & Kay Thompson)

– 5 novels
Les enfants terribles (Jean Cocteau)
L’e?tranger (Camus)
Le Proce?s (Kafka)
Zorba (Nikos Kazantzakis)
L’amour (Marguerite Duras)

– 5 movies
L’avventura (Antonioni)
Pierrot le fou (Godard) Chantons sous la pluie (Donen)
2001 (Kubrick)
Love in the afternoon (Wilder)
101 dalmatians (Reitherman)

– 6 vinyls
Solitude (Billy holiday)
Bill Evans (Moon beams)
Getz-Gilberto (Joao Gilberto et Stan Getz)
Cripple crow (Devendra Banhardt)
Live at Pompei (Pink Floyd)
2 (Mac de Marco)

– 5 artists
Pablo Picasso
David Hockney
Devendra Banhart
Alice Neel
Jean Cocteau

– 5 places
Death Valley (USA)
Ginostra (Italie)
Amorgos (Gre?ce)
Le quartier latin/montagne sainte Genevie?ve/Jardin du Luxembourg (Paris)
My atelier (Paris)

Merci beaucoup to Louis Thomas for his words and we wish him all the luck with his coming exhibition FLEURS opened from 19th of October to the 16th of November at Galerie Antonine Catzeflis in PARIS. Don’t miss it!

Meet Louis Thomas here!

All the images courtesy ofLouis Thomas.

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