one to watch
Aurélia Durand’s powerful portraits
Multidisciplinary artist Aurélia Durand celebrates and connects with her African heritage through her large-scale, vibrantly colored portraits. Aurélia studied art and design in Denmark and France and moved to Paris in 2017 after a long stay in Copenhagen. Her work, which focuses on joy and pride in identity, has been featured on several book covers and other collaborations. Aurélia’s work has also recently been exhibited in Paris and London.
Tell us who you are and what you do. what is your background
I’m a French multidisciplinary artist. I paint on canvas, murals and basketball courts, illustrate articles and books, write books, create visuals for campaigns and animate short videos. I’ve worked with many well-known international brands over the past six years, from The New Yorker to Nike and Google. One of the books that features my art is a New York Times #1 bestseller, “This Book is Anti-Racist.”
What do you want your work to say? What are the main themes you pursue in your work? Can you provide an example of work that demonstrates this?
My work has a distinctive style. I paint to celebrate my African heritage through proud and powerful colours. I depict unknown black figures surrounded by vivid colors and patterns. I paint positive and peaceful messages. There is no specific piece of art that shows my artistic intentions, everything I’ve done so far shows my intentions. I use books to teach young children how to take action against racism, I animate dances to connect to my African heritage and I use African patterns inspired by wax textiles to reconnect with my African roots . I’m an “Artivist” which means my work conveys peaceful messages about multiculturalism.
Can you explain to us the process of creating a work from start to finish?
I usually doodle in a small sketchbook, draw on my computer to play with the colors in Adobe Illustrator, and then trace the drawing on my canvas with a black pen. Then I start painting with colors.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
I studied art and design at different art schools in France and Denmark. I have studied the architecture of Jean Nouvel, Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid, the product design of Etorre Sottsass, Hella Jongerius, Verner Panton, Vitra and Olafur Eliasson, the paintings of Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Kerry James Marshall, and Kehinde Wiley Amy Sherald and the photographs of Malick Sidibé, David Lachapelle and Plato. Traveling to different countries such as the French West Indies, Scandinavia and the United States has also influenced my work.
How do you comment on current social and political issues with your work?
It’s not that my work comments on current social and political issues, it’s that throughout my life I’ve felt that my story didn’t matter because it wasn’t part of the primary culture in which I lived. My mother is from Ivory Coast Africa and didn’t teach me anything about its culture. With my art I reconnect with my African roots: I try to complete a missing part of myself. And today, more and more people are doing what I’m doing, trying to tell more nuanced stories about where we come from with pride and joy.
How do you hope viewers will react to your work? What do you want them to feel?
I hope viewers will be motivated by my use of color. I use yellow and orange as eye enhancers, so people looking at my work feel like they’re getting a vitamin D shot. The body expression of my characters is dynamic: it brings vibrancy to my work as well as the colors. I hope people feel inspired to move and have fun.
What are some of your most memorable experiences as an artist?
People want to hear my story and how I became an independent artist and developed my style. I am invited to speak in front of people about my work. It’s impressive and funny because not long ago I was struggling in my bedroom to pursue an artistic career. At first I really wanted to speak in front of a crowd but after doing it so many times it’s the one thing I love the most. Working alone in my studio has made me want to share more with people. Lacking sociability on a day-to-day basis, I enjoy sharing my experiences with an audience, especially young aspiring artists.
Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?
Neither. When I paint, I listen to podcasts, especially radio plays. I listen to engaging, immersive stories produced by QCODE or on Audible or Apple podcasts. Some stories are around six to nine twenty to fifty minute episodes, and there are different genres such as sci-fi, horror, comedy, thriller and more. Listening to stories without seeing pictures stimulates my imagination. When I look at my paintings, I can tell the stories I heard while painting. I recommend it!
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