A Marseille-based, fourth generation artist, Karine Rougier has art running through her veins (she is a descendant of Giuseppe Cali). So it came as no surprise when Karine had a natural inclination to drawing and painting, and that she became pretty damn good at it. With past exhibitions primarily in Europe, Rougier is finally bringing her talent to the US.
For her first solo New York show, Wild Waves in Our Hands, Karine will be showcasing her series of surrealist-minded oil paintings and works on paper, displayed alongside handmade lucky charms inspired by Kachina dolls, called “grigri.”
The artist will be fusing fantasy with reality from June 1st through July 1st at the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery.
We caught up with Karine before her show’s debut to ask her a few questions about her art, inspiration, and what makes her laugh. This is what she said:
Were you always interested in art?
My ancestors were all painters, and I grew up surrounded by their paintings and drawings. They were mostly of Maltese sea views, landscapes, madonnas, and children. I always enjoyed looking at these paintings and listening to the stories that went along with them. I loved drawing as a child, and never stopped. So when I naturally arrived at painting, I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else in my life.
Where do you derive your inspiration for your art?
A painting always starts with an image extracted from reality — mostly a scene with humans/creatures sharing a moment together. I have a big table covered with books, prints, and newspaper cuts, as well as different boxes full of stamps, engravings, and vintage postcards. I like to collage mixing all of these references and playing with them. But this is only the beginning of the drawing; the second part is to let the imagination take over and finally let go to the unconscious words.
My inspiration is attracted by magical and surreal worlds, I am fascinated by hands, antique sculptures, African masks, voodoo carnivals, botanical plants, traditional Mexican dance, and animal spirits. I am nourished by poetry such as Ingeborg Bachmann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Les Métamorphose d’Ovide, Magritte, Frida Kahlo, Rodin, and Jacques Prevert, as well as Flemish paintings, Inuit drawings, and Indian miniature.
I get most of my inspiration in emotion.
Explain the inspiration behind this particular exhibition, Wild Waves in Our Hands?
I wanted to talk about passion, the moment when the body becomes wild. In the oil paintings, I explored the fire burning in the body of the lovers, but also magical rituals with people dancing, hands playing, and many hearts and volcanoes.
For this show, I was very much inspired by my precious girlfriends and the friendship we have. I admire these free woman and mothers that are so strong and delicate at the same time. One of the paintings (of four women dancing in the galaxy holding hands and wearing masks) is directly inspired from a long and amazing dance we had one night, holding each other very close by our shoulders, like a big sea flower with our hair and legs moving.
What drew you to Kachina dolls?
I grew up on the Ivory Coast and was fascinated by the wizard’s houses. When I swim or walk, I collect many different stones, feathers, pieces of wood, and shells, and always keep them in my studio. In 2013, I did not stop painting for several months to prepare for Volta NY, and when I got back to France, I could not paint or draw anymore; I needed another dimension. So I started making small “grigri,” like magical objects, which quickly became little dolls, inspired by the Amazon women and Kachina dolls.
How does the social and political climate impact your art?
I very rarely listen to the news because it makes me sad and depressed. Making art is a way of being far away from the social and political climate, and jumping into another world. But I realize some facts have been appearing in my work for a long time — like the place of woman in our society. I show determined and adventurous women in my paintings and this, of course, echoes to the actuality.
Where do you feel the happiest?
Deep under the Mediterranean Sea, free diving with my friends. The body is floating; everything is so calm and quiet, full of magical shapes and lights.
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
My daughter, this morning. Just as she wakes up she puts her face very close to mine and our eyes nearly touch. We laugh so much.
What was the last thing that made you cry?
Listening to “Golden Dreams” by Javad Maroufi, while painting in the studio. The piano makes me cry. I love it.