Causette with Diane Benoit du Rey

Workshop interview

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Read the interview in the studio of Diane Benoit du Rey published in Causette:



In Seine-Saint-Denis, the the heart of a rehabilited industrial complex, the painter Diane Benoit du Rey seizes colours and fixes them on abstract canvases that are moving. Meet the artist behind a new monumental fresco in Vitry-sur-Seine.


From afar, Diane Benoit du Rey's silhouette looks frail. It is a simple mirage due to the sunlight that shines on the courtyard of the Préàvie, a former sausage factory converted by Soukmachines into a multitude of workshops. Up close, the painter reveals strong arms, drawn by the repeated movements of the brush smoothing the contours of her colours, which make her carry her large format canvases effortlessly from one end of her studio to the other, on the second floor of the building.



On the floor, paint stains, of course, and a stove placed on the bare concrete for the Italian coffee pot. The place is sparsely furnished - a few books, equipment and stored canvases - but above all it has two large windows that let in streams of light.


Diane shares this studio with Emmanuel. A different painter, a different style, a different work rhythm, this night owl leaves most of the time the field free during the day. This distribution suits the artist perfectly, as she is forced to work in concert with the daytime light. "I painted once in the evening, I left quite happy with myself and then I came back the next morning I thought I would die of shame at the sight of the result" laughs the thirty-year-old, who refuses to show "the crust".


Her current style - in which "it is a question of lines, colours, movements, and beyond that of perception, a reflection of a pictural universe of an abstract and minimal nature" - is the fruit of a progressive purification. After graduating from the Haute École des Arts du Rhin (HEAR) seven years ago, Diane first produced a series of more figurative canvases made up of formal objects and already those rays of colour that characterise her work, but in the background. Gradually, dazzling events made her want to refocus her work on these details, to "abandon the pretexts". It is difficult, however, to leave representation behind after a classical training: "the heritage of painting contains a large mental component, in the symbolic representation, in the reference to the history of art. Except that I ended up understanding that what really interested me was the sensory. The great masters of abstraction helped her to become more radical; Rothko, Dan Flavin, and especially James Turrell, whose retrospective she went to see in Dusseldörf. "It changed my relationship to the world." The American artist, a maestro of light installations, invites visitors into rooms where only one dimension remains, that of colour, and where you float in hypnotic bubbles that are no longer afraid of corners.



On the wall, a ray of light magnifies the quadriptyche that occupies the artist for the moment. "I came to the question of whether it was possible to turn paint into light." The four canvases answer yes. And they continue to tell the story of the swirls of colour in blurs. The painter, passionate about optical phenomena - "I read scientific books on the subject, even if I didn't remember anything about it", she smiles - wanted to evoke saturation here with hues that rise in power. And she is a little sorry to find the current result so seductive, even though she has not yet pushed the concept to its limits.


It is true that it is very beautiful. We would like to say something less flat but the fact is that it is. To remain trivial, we ask about the price. The hypnotising gradations seem very appropriates on the ceiling of a bedroom to calm sleepless nights and magnify lazy mornings. Unfortunately, to afford it, you'll have to get up early. Over the last few months, Diane Benoit du Rey has been spotted by one gallery (Scène ouverte), then a second (Le Feuvre & Roze). In the jargon of the art world, this means that her price have almost tripled. So much the worse of our ceiling, and so much the better for the painter who admits that the first years after her studies, with their succession of food jobs and disillusionment, proved to be discouraging at times. She has been making a living from her art for about two years now, "which is quite fast compared to an artist's career, but quite long when you're in it".



Through the window, the horizon is far away. You can almost make out, then kilometres in the north, the monumental fresco that Diane Benoit du Rey has created on the gable of the east wall of the Touraine residence in Vitry-sur-Seine.


She was chosen by the inhabitants of the district during a citizen consultation following a call for projects launched by the city and La Semise (the city's social landlord) as part of the thermal rehabilitation of the building, and inaugurated on 31 March. After several weeks of work, thirteen floors of scaffolding and 160 litres of paint, the 330-square-metre building illuminates the neighbourhood.


"I really like the change of scale, if it's not free", insists the woman who led another large-scale project, this time in the Colart painting company. Supervising the staff of the premises, who painted some 800 30x30 cm tiles with colours of their composition before gluing them to the wall in a naval battle style, Diane gave birth to a 75m2 fresco.

Large projects which, together with her more traditional paintings, take up a lot of her time. And what does she do in the little free time she has left? Ceramics. Or digital simulations of a luxury swimming pool with a gradient background and sketches of coloured lamps. It's sometimes difficult not to get caught up in this megalomaniacal fantasy of creating a kind of Work in which all the entities that make up the Work are linked together. To monitor the trajectory of this rising star, follow the light.


May 3, 2022
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