Performance artist Caroline Denervaud teams with actor-director Adrien Dantou

French artists Denervaud and Dantou met during lockdown, and began immediately collaborating with each other on several projects including a Louis Vuitton promo.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : May 11, 2022

Based in Paris, Caroline Denervaud is a Swiss multi-disciplinary artist with a penchant for dance. However, this is no ordinary dance form, nor is it traditional. In fact, it fuses two traditions, of movement and painting, combining it into a singular art form. Denervaud is a performance painter, whose body alchemises music into movement which results in an intuitive mark making process. Denervaud speaks to us about her practice and inspirations, and tells us about her collaborative process with Adrien Dantou.

Denervaud says, “I have always danced. Movement has always been the most intrinsic and truest way of expressing myself”. Coming to terms with this, she left to study at Laban Center in London. Due to an unfortunate accident soon after she arrived in London, the artist had to cut her project short and ended up travelling to Paris instead, to study painting as well as fashion design. She continues to say, “It took me a long time to understand that movement was always the impetus of my inspiration and also that even if I was not a dancer I ‘had the right’ to dance. On the advice of a friend, I started to film my movement. I moved on very large sheets of paper so that the background was even (I was working in my living room at the time). Then came the traces, the extension of the movement, its writing". From this point onwards, the traces became a pivotal part of her creation process, and the initiating ritual of every work she begins. Today her oeuvre includes painting, performance and video films of them both. Denervaud shares with us that she is keenly interested in creating video-based artworks which are not necessarily linked to a trace or painting.

A view of Denervaud’s solo exhibition in Milan, 2021 | Caroline Denervaud | STIRworld
A view of Denervaud’s solo exhibition in Milan, 2021 Image: Courtesy of Caroline Denervaud

Although unique, Denervaud’s art practice is not the first of its kind. As performative painting goes, Yves Klein was one of the first to experiment with and popularised the technique of using bodily interactions and movements to create large format paintings. Klein was a French artist born in 1928 who began his career as a judo practitioner. It was only later at the age of 26 that he began to delve into the world of painting, falling deeply in love with colour and monochromes. He is perhaps most famous for developing and popularising International Klein Blue, his most preferred hue to work with. Klein died at a young age in 1962. However, before his death he made bold steps into experimental techniques of painting. Klein would invite women to use their naked bodies to lay paint on large canvases laid on the floor, taking up the role of choreographer. Klein’s practice created a dynamic body of work which inspired many artists after him to use more experimental methods of painting rather than the traditional brush and canvas technique. Klein’s legacy can be seen in Jackson Pollock’s art, where he uses buckets of paint with holes at the bottom. Denervaud cites artists like Pina Bausch, Helen Frankenthaler, Marina Abramovic and Francesco Clemente as significant influences in the shaping of her practice, calling upon individual traits from each.

Denervaud with her work in 2019 | Caroline Denervaud | STIRworld
Denervaud with her work in 2019 Image: Eva Baales, Courtesy of Caroline Denervaud

Denervaud’s collaboration with Adrien Dantou began during the first lockdown which followed the outbreak of coronavirus in 2020. Dantou is a Paris-based writer, actor and director. Their encounter quickly resulted in each sharing space in their practice with the other. Denervaud tells us, “Our first collaboration was an improvisation, filmed in my studio. It lasted an hour. I had prepared a canvas, on the ground, Adrien was dancing, I accompanied him by painting the canvas, moving with him and around him. Everything was simple, fluid. There is great respect in our collaboration”. Dantou and Denervaud collaborated on multiple projects including a performance on television, as well as a promotional video for Louis Vuitton’s 200th anniversary.

01 min watch A filmed video of Dantou and Denervaud’s collaborative performance | Caroline Denervaud | STIRworld
A filmed video of Dantou and Denervaud’s collaborative performance Video: Courtesy of Caroline Denervaud

Denervaud’s collaborative spirit led her to work on several other performances with Dantou. "Then recently we performed live in a beautiful place in Paris. The idea was to invite people that the performance be free and open. The audience was there and very receptive, now we would like to continue performing together, always improvised! When I play with Adrien I have to be very present, understand how paint forms under our feet, how Adrien moves. Perhaps our collaboration influenced me in the ‘performance’ aspect of my work, even if I am alone in the workshop, I always put myself in motion, filmed. There is a beginning, an end, it's a ‘one shot' as if there was an audience," mentions Denervaud. The artists develop a rhythm together, in tandem with each other’s movement. Their performative works remind a viewer of contact improvisation, a deeply meditative activity which creates an intimate, unspoken bond between the performers. Denervaud’s paintings oozes the warmth of the feminine, elevated by her selection of colour and form. Her use of the colour pink and the circular form remind me of the female body, symbolising the birth of the new.

02 mins watch A filmed video of Dantou and Denervaud’s collaborative performance | Caroline Denervaud | STIRworld
The two artists performing together Video: Courtesy of Caroline Denervaud

Denervaud recently participated in a fair in New York, Future Fair (May 6- 8, 2022) with DoubleV Gallery and next would team up for Art Paris in September.  

Portaits of the artists | Adrien Dantou | Caroline Denervaud | STIRworld
Artists Caroline Denervaud and Adrien Dantou Image: Courtesy of Caroline Denervaud and Adrien Dantou

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