OLOW X KORALIE
To create happiness through balance, the harmony of forms and colour… In order to achieve her majestic icons of enchanting fusions, Koralie draws inspiration from her initiatory journeys. Her ingenious pieces of work diffuse a complex, refined and poetic scent around them. The French artist, already well known to the public, let us enter her “symetricophile” and “maniaco-harmonic”imaginary world to create a wonderful embroidered crop top. This colourful and bold sweater undoubtedly takes us on a journey to the other side of the world and eases our thirst for creativity…
Hi Koralie! We’d like to look back on your journey. We found out that you studied architecture; how does that help you with your illustrating?
I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I was a child; I always wanted to do something artistic. I studied architecture and art at uni, and I carried on with architecture because I enjoyed it so much; the people I met and the way of working, too. It was very complete, we would go from geometry to pure art. In parallel with my studies, I used to paint on canvases and in the street. The link between architecture and painting wasn’t obvious to me at first, aside from the fact that I would paint symmetrical characters. As time went on, I realised that I was moving away from architecture as a job, but naturally integrating it into my art.
You started with street art and graffiti, painting on the walls in Montpellier.
I always used to hang out in urban areas because I liked skateboarding and those kinds of cheesy street art styles, like “trompe l’oeil”. I started graffiti when I lived in Toulouse, and I began painting alone in the streets when I went back to Montpellier.
When did you decide that this activity had to become lucrative and legal?
It’s not something you decide, it comes gradually. People tend to go about things backwards, saying: “I’ve decided I want to be an artist”, trying to make a living from it, before even being an artist. It’s a way of life, you have to make and produce things first, and then, little by little, opportunities will come your way, exhibitions, collaborations. It just became obvious to me.
You describe yourself as being a “symetricophile” and “maniaco-harmonic” on your website. We can tell you care a lot about colour harmony and balanced forms in your drawings. Why are you so interested in the idea of perfection?
Those terms “symetricophile” and “maniac-harmonic” stem from my love of psychology. We all have neurosis and I found it funny to say mine was this concern I have for harmony. I like to balance forms and colours as much as I possibly can, because I realised what makes people happy is that quest for balance. I try to mimic that in my art, rendering my pieces as balanced and harmonic as possible so that people feel good when looking at them. I like mixing different cultures; if I manage to mix them harmoniously enough so that people aren’t shocked, then my message has been passed on. I think we can live in harmony, even if we’re different, because we have managed to find the right balance.
You master many artistic processes, whether it be collage, acrylic or oil painting, or graphic design. How do you mix all these techniques together in your work?
I actually have quite a defined message and I use any technique that will then help to increase its meaning. It’s all about balance, once again: I need my computer to create my little symmetries and repetitions just as much as I need to paint my frescos perched 10 metres high up on a tiny nacelle at 9 in the morning when it’s 4 degrees outside. I also collaborate quite a lot, which helps with my socialising.
A few of your illustrations, with the geishas and matriochkas, obviously remind us of Japan, but there are always allusions to other cultures in your work. How do your travels influence your art?
When people ask what influences me, I always say travel. My world was inspired by Japan a lot in the beginning because I’m a manga generation kid: they were a big influence. At first, I made the connection between the really extroverted and extravagant manga girls, and the very conventional geishas. I call them “geishkas”, because they’re a mix between the Japanese geishas and the Russian matriochkas that symbolises the introduction of new cultures in my work. I then began introducing Mexican ponchos, Marie-Antoinette hairstyles, etc. to create a hybrid character. I introduced this multicultural idea into my architecture as well. When I got back from my trip to Vietnam, I mixed religious buildings, combining a mosque with a church and a Buddhist temple. I made a brand new edifice without it being shocking.
We know that you have travelled to Asia a lot. Can you tell us about a memory or a story from there that particularly left its mark on you?
What amazes me most in Asia is all the smiling. People smile a lot in Thailand and Vietnam and I love it. I find we can save many things with a smile. Once, we were at an extremely busy market in Bangkok, when music started playing; everybody stopped walking, everyone got up, and no one moved. We couldn’t understand why, none of that stuff was written in our guidebook. Apparently, everyday or every Monday at 6pm, in every single public place, everybody just stops. It’s incredibly impressive, like a minute of silence.
We feel that you’re very interested in the world of fashion. You launched your own brand Métroplastique in 2005. What made you want to go down that route?
I have always been interested in appearance and haute couture. We decided to do it because people kept asking us why we didn’t put our illustrations on t-shirts. We were incredibly successful right from the start, with the Ministère de la Jeunesse et des Sports Award, and a stall at the Who’s Next tradeshow. We soon realised, though, that it wasn’t really our milieu and that we were moving away from our way of thinking. There really were too many constraints that meant we wouldn’t express ourselves freely. We refocused on our art, and nowadays I’m the one who mainly looks after it; I focused on derived products like stationary, prints things that meant it was easier to express myself than fashion design, which is too binding. It’s five jobs wrapped up in one.
How does your collaboration with OLOW match with your artistic vision?
When I do collaborations, the other’s world has to speak to me and be very much like mine. There has to be a mutual feeling with the people I’m going to collaborate with, and it has to be a serious proposition. I really connected with Mathieu and Valentin for my collab with OLOW. It reminded me of when I started Métroplastique, it happened really quite naturally.
You recently redecorated the Pavillon des Canaux façade for the CARE NGO. How was that experience for you?
CARE offered I participate and I accepted, because their chosen theme, ecology, has always been important to me. I accepted only if I could find a worthwhile idea because I was overbooked at the time. I came up with the idea of a tapestry with climate illustrations, with the causes and consequences of climate change on the world population. People had to feel attracted to the house to then move in closer, try to understand the illustrations, and then go and find out the answers inside. It’ll last until the COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change.
You have already done many exhibitions in France and the United States. You went to few cities in France recently.
That’s right. I was organising signings for my book of drawings. I was in a dozen towns around France including Lyon, Nîmes, Montpellier, Toulouse, Aix-en-Provence, Nantes, Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille.
One last question: what is your definition of Paradise?
Seeing as I’m not a believer, I’d say Paradise is on Earth. I think that my definition of Paradise is my life. I have the husband I’ve always wanted, beautiful children, and my dream job. Paradise would mean the existence of a great place, impossible to reach and definitely not when you’re alive. For me, it’s horrible to believe in Paradise. Having an idea of Paradise is Hell!
A big thank to Koralie for her answers.
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