As the Instagram star opens her first ever solo show in Los Angeles, we sit down to discuss sun, societal expectations and the power of womanhood
French painter and illustrator Inès Longevial is enthused by the female form. “I try to paint bodies differently.” she explains. “I like to emphasise forms of flesh that are forgotten: fingertips, cheekbones.” Her first ever solo show, Sous le Soleil at HVW8 Gallery in Los Angeles, explores the visuals of femininity through small brushstrokes, techniques of distortion and fragmentation – all with the intention of offering an alternative to the homogeneous representation of women often seen online. “Naturally, I was very attracted by the cliché’d and idealistic representations of the female body seen in so many photographs that are posted on Instagram. However, I quickly realised that it would be a problem for me to draw female bodies modelled after the expectations and fantasies of our society.”
Longevial’s Los Angeles show is about championing the uniqueness of femininity, and her artworks explore the realm outside societal constructs regarding physical attractiveness and beauty. “It’s important to not cultivate only ‘girly’ culture when we talk about women,” Longevial says. Her clean and strong use of colours, geometric shapes and shadows show the power in women’s bodies without fetishising them.
The series of textured paintings on show at HVW8 Gallery are manifestations of these ideals and also explore themes around nature. Longevial is inspired by the people around her – especially her family – and for this exhibition she took inspiration from her own life experiences and interests. “I started thinking about it at the beginning of spring in Paris. I was suffering from a terrible lack of sunlight – I was thinking about my childhood and sunny memories and faces between light and shadow.”
Longevial lives and works in Paris, and started painting at a very young age. Her childhood spent “in the little house in the prairie” has deeply influenced her romantic aesthetic. “What I live, what I see – my paintings are like a diary that talk about my life at some point, and grow up with me,” she explains. Her beautiful oil paintings are both simple and sharp, and express a powerful emotion with each still scene. Although the ideas behind her works come from a highly personal place, it’s easy to see which masters have influenced this popular artist. Pablo Picasso and Matisse both played a part in the artist’s early interest in painting, and her bold figurative portrayals have interested the likes of brands such as Nike and Levi’s.
Still, at their core, Longevial’s paintings are a fresh take on society's preoccupation with body image, and her show Sous Le Soleil is the start of an exciting journey for the burgeoning talent. Longevial tells us that “being a woman is central to my life,” and that is clear to see; her passion for showing female bodies through an alternative lens is what makes her work so likeable. Classic in style and contemporary in its concept, Sous Le Soleil is essentially just a physical manifestation of what Longevial has been successfully doing and sharing online with her many followers. “People are a great strength to me. What I do, I do it to share,” she says. “I hope that in this diary, others recognise that and find comfort in it.”
Sous Le Soleil runs until November 26, 2017, at HVW8 Gallery.