Friday, September 24, 2010
Interview with Nathalie Lete
A window into Lete's Red Riding Hood world
NATHALIE Lete's work is exuberant, nostalgic and everywhere. Blooming flowers with giant petals, bright red toadstools, battered teddy-bears, butterflies and birds; her work is story-book naive, with bold brush stokes from a boiled-lolly palette.
In the past decade the work of the Paris-based artist has become coveted by everyone from Disneyland and Issey Miyake to Chanel and, most recently, Australian clothing line Blue Illusion. Lete's unique aesthetic has blurred across a diverse array of items including clothing, rugs, jewellery, stationery, dinner-ware, ceramics, linens and colouring books.
In an email interview (her English is not strong) on the eve of her first Melbourne visit, 46-year-old Lete talks about her childhood growing up in Paris. ''I had no brother and sister so I was often alone and drawing all the time,'' she explains.
Holidays were spent with her grandmother in Bavaria where Lete spent her days exploring the forest, ''like Little Red Riding Hood''. Fairytales, ''the woods'' and the menacing threat that might be lurking there, also creeps into Lete's work: a spider dangles from a web or a wolf with a hungry look prowls nearby.
''My mother read me lots of stories when I was a child and I loved the illustrations. Even now, when I'm in the middle of nature, I can remember that feeling and I try to use it in my work,'' she says.
Lete says her father also influenced how she sees the world. ''He was Chinese. He wasn't really home a lot because he worked very hard. I remember we had a lot of silk paintings and my mother had some kimonos, which I loved.''
Lete describes her visual style as a mosaic that draws on everything from souvenirs to clashing colours.
''I like contrasting things. I think my parents had 'strange' taste and as I got older, I developed my own and now I mix both. Sometimes what I paint is inspired by stories I make up in my head. Some people might not understand this but it's an important part of how I work.''
Making a living from her art was something Lete always hoped to achieve, but growing up she was told the idea was ''impossible''. Undeterred, when she was 18, she sought the advice of an astrologer who predicted she would become an artist.
''That's why I went to art school, but it wasn't always an easy path. It's been a lot of hard work.''
Today Lete, her husband, painter Thomas Fougerol, and their two children, Oskar and Angele, live and work in a renovated 19th century studio that was once a metal factory that made pieces for the Eiffel Tower. The iconic structure features in Lete's work as a playful kitsch element that she seems to mock and embrace in equal measure.
Recently, Lete was flown to New York to paint Anthropologie's window on Fifth Avenue and this Sunday, she will visit two Blue Illusion stores in Melbourne. ''People are amazed that I find painting the windows so easy but for me, it's like a big piece of paper,'' she says. ''It's fun to draw such large pieces … it makes me really happy.''
The desire to create - whether for the crowd of bystanders she inevitably attracts, or a major label - is constant. ''I always have this feeling that I need to do something, otherwise I feel like a prisoner inside.''
Lete says that her ability to recreate certain feelings of nostalgia is partly because she feels ''disconnected" with the reality of being an adult. ''I don't like too many responsibilities, unless it's to do with my work. I like to feel protected in my world, which is probably why I'm so organised."
As Lete's popularity grows, how she manages her creative time has become critical. ''The success is great but I can't just sit on my balcony,'' she says. ''I have so much to do but I'm not a machine, I have to make sure I don't forget myself.''
Blue Illusion, Sunday 10am, 113 Glenferrie Road, Malvern; 2pm, G093, Doncaster Shopping Centre.
From: The Age newspaper
Posted by Frances at 9:15 AM
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