Aurelie Freoua is a brilliant artist whose work is captivating the jazz world and beyond. She is an integral part of a fantastic art scene in the UK, which is full of incredible female artists who are connecting with live jazz performances and creating art before your very eyes. It is not only thrilling to watch, but it is also empowering to see women at the forefront after so many years of male dominance in the art world.
‘While I paint, I feel really connected to the phenomenon of synaesthesia where sounds and colours are echoing in a dynamic way’
Aurelie Freoua is a French artist and performer living and working in London. She originally studied Mathematics and Economics in Paris but went on to study art and completed an MA in Fine Art at Camberwell College of Arts, London. Since then, her paintings have been exhibited in several group shows in London, New York, Miami, Paris and the South of France and her artworks have featured in poetry collections including ‘Echoing’ published by Ampersand. She created a work specially for the Bonhams’ auction in support of the Greenfell Tower victims (2018) and has taken part in workshops organised by the Digital Maker Collective at Tate Exchange, Tate Modern. Over the past three years, Aurelie has collaborated with the Vortex Jazz Club and improvising musicians, creating music and art simultaneously with the musicians and artists using a similar sonic and visual approach. Aurelie has also designed covers for albums by Raphael Clarkson, Paulo Duarte, Henrik Jensen and Luca Boscagin and works on set designs and costumes for several theatre plays at Theatro Technis alongside her acting performances.
It was wonderful to speak to Aurelie and find out more about her work. As she grew up in Paris, a city full of rich art history, I was curious as to why she would move to London…
AF: A lot of people ask me this question actually. When we are born somewhere, we have a tendency to dream about going somewhere else in order to explore and discover new horizons and journeys. This is like a natural instinct and it is related to the feeling of freedom. I really enjoyed the vibes and intensity of New York when I lived there for one year – the city that never sleeps – but I realised how far it was from France. Living in London gave me the same feeling of being connected to the international scene. Paris is beautiful, poetic and inspiring but I am more attracted to London and its special energy. London is a vibrant and dynamic city offering the chance to learn and grow. Living in this melting pot gives a sensation of freedom and people are really open minded. There is a lot going on all the time and you can visit great museums and art galleries whenever you wish. Inspiration is around the corner. And I met amazing people and artists here who have played important roles in the evolution of my art practice.
Having studied Fine Art, how did you first connect with music and in particular Jazz?
AF: I’ve always enjoyed painting in my studio with music in the background as a source of stimulation and inspiration. It influences the mood and starting point of a new painting. When I went to watch live gigs a few years ago, it was like a big revelation for me as I realised that jazz was very connected to my abstract painting approach. Improvisation is an important dimension of my practice and I was feeling how much jazz musicians improvise melodies too, playing with various textures of sound. When I paint, it’s all about feeling freely the emotions of the colours, the shapes and textures. The colours and materials I choose to start a painting impact the whole dynamism and energy of it. My process is particularly linked to free jazz and its experimental aspect where the movements of brushstrokes and shapes echo with the rhythm and colours of the sound. This is why I wanted to collaborate and improvise alongside musicians and to continue this deep exploration.
While studying at Camberwell, I was invited to paint live in an event where artists were creating and improvising in response to poets. This gave me the idea to organise a performance merging poetry and visual art at The Vortex Jazz Club back in 2017. A few months after, the concept of ‘Résonances’ was born! The first event involved musical and live painting performances, both art forms interacting in a dynamic way. This is a two-way dialogue where not only the melodies are influencing directly the paintings but the art created live is also impacting the music, making us hear the sound of colours as well. From there, I gradually incorporated dance and poetry into our experimental Résonances performances and the concept evolved a lot.
Your work is very analytical and explorative – how would you describe your process?
AF: When I start a painting, I have the impression that I am creating and discovering a new world. This is a feeling of pure creativity. I immerse myself in the process of creation and I enjoy the journey as a creative flow leading to the unknown. I also like experimenting with new materials, playing freely with textures and not knowing exactly what my plans are. I do not like boundaries. I mostly create paintings and drawings using mixed media techniques, oil and acrylic paint. I like making abstract paintings as it is a direct and spontaneous way to express my thoughts and subconscious but I am also exploring figurative and surrealist compositions to represent my ideas. When I perform and paint live alongside musicians, I feel like doing visual improvisation.
Painting is my way to express my ideas, to conceptualise my analysis and describe my perception of the world. My intention is to catch the instant, extract the poetry and transcribe the indefinable and implicit emotions by giving them a visual dimension, a shape, a colour, a movement, a direction and by playing with contrasts and light. Throughout my practice I value authentic representation and intensity in a process of ‘making visible’, aiming to give substance to the time going and defy the limits of consciousness. I want to paint our inner voice, a breath, a feeling, an echo, the imperceptible impression, the silence and this unconscious that we can’t control. I attempt to create a rhythm and harmony making forms, lines and light sing and resonate all together.
You were involved in two projects as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Firstly, you curated an art and photography exhibition with some incredible artists – including yourself – can you tell us a little about this?
AF: During the exhibition, people have discovered the work of artists who created paintings, drawings and photographs inspired by jazz music. Most of the artworks have been created during live gigs and in direct interaction or dialogue with jazz music in different contexts. I exhibited paintings that I created for album covers and during Résonances live performances, jazz festivals and concerts. The exhibition had the work of Ley Loosh, Gina Southgate, Gwendolyn Kassenaar, Chris Cunningham and photographers Monika S Jakubowska and Tatiana Gorilovsky.
You also curate and perform in multidisciplinary, experimental and immersive live performances within the project you created called ‘Résonances’ which merges visual art, musical performances, poetry and dance and aims to ‘explore and transcend such notions as the invisible, movement, ephemerality and the intangibility of emotion through vivid colours and harmonious compositions of form, line and light’. You had an exciting workshop as part of this year’s London Jazz Festival on the 14th November – can you tell us a little bit about this?
AF: It was really intense and immersive! Yes Résonances is a multidisciplinary event merging live visual art, dance, musical performance and poetry. Each performance takes you on a journey of creation, improvisation and interactions between these multiple art forms. This audio-visual experience creates dynamic dialogues between different disciplines, opening up new avenues of inspiration. Résonances is an immersive experience with a theatrical dimension where a thematic is explored, such as metamorphosis, dreams, memories, resilience… These live performances hope to challenge the perceptions of the viewer, stimulating their senses and emotions.
The workshop started with a performance as a demonstration to highlight the dialogues between art, music, poetry and dance. It aims to explore how these art forms interact with each other, and then it’s your turn! We have mainly showed people how the music and musical instruments influence our way to paint through our choices of colours, shapes and materials we use to create textures but also how the artworks are guiding the music (two-way dialogue). The participants were invited to draw and paint in response to the sound and we helped them to develop their visual approach and compositions in an abstract or more figurative way. We have highlighted that all these choices are made by our unconscious and intuition and that we don’t control them totally.
I have co-hosted the event with fellow visual artist Ley Loosh who has been involved in the Résonances journey since the beginning. While Ley and me painted live on plexiglas, poet and facilitator Joly Licks joined us on stage, performing and setting a writing exercise with words impacting the visual expression. Music was played by saxophonist Jessica Bullen Quartet and flautist Hyelim Kim. Alongside the music, painting and poetry, Petra Haller was dancing and performing with us, her movements adding another layer of interaction and stimulation to the workshop.
It was amazing to see the audience create art inspired by our performances and powerful to feel so much creativity in the room; everyone has their unique interpretations of the music and their own way to express visually the emotions they feel. The idea is to help the participants to feel the flow of energy and to guide them through the process of creation inspired by the fusion of all these art forms. This is a bit like a mission for me: pushing people to reconnect to their inner self and unlock their creativity, giving them the confidence to listen to their imagination and express themselves with spontaneity! This was our first live Résonances Workshop as we did mainly performances before and people were only watching us. I felt an extra dimension this time as the audience was active and involved in the creative process – they were almost performing with us. It was very interactive – A good occasion to create and be free!
Aurelie’s work was exhibited at Toulouse Lautrec, London from November 11th to 21st as part of the Jazz in Art Exhibition for the EFG London Jazz Festival and the ‘Resonances’ Workshop event took place on Nov 14th
Last modified: November 25, 2021