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Aurélie Alvarez

Published:

Aurelie Alvarez

Heart of Matter

I live in the town of Isle sur la Sorgue, a beautiful piece of countryside in Provence, France. It also happens to be one of the most exciting and dynamic hubs for antiques in Europe. Isle sur la Sorgue isn’t a big city, but it is incredibly rich culturally and provides a never-ending source of inspiration for me and the many interior designers and antiques dealers who come here to source.

My house in Isle sur la Sorgue is part of me—or perhaps I’m a part of it—as I enjoy a profoundly symbiotic relationship with it. The structure itself dates back to the 16th century, when it served as an ancient hotel. My studio is located in the house’s rafters, overlooking the rooftops in my town and bringing me closer to heaven. It is not in any way polished; I’ve left it natural and raw. I try to avoid imposing myself on it too much. I’ve even left untouched the wall’s frescoes, handwriting and tiny scraps of original wallpaper. It nourishes my imagination and my need for regeneration. It is 330-square-feet of pure happiness.

Aurelie Alvarez

I hang my canvases directly against the walls of my studio. It creates traces of my work, which I consider to be imprints of my creative life and evidence of my journey— like a footprint in the sand. I feel as if the walls inhale the paint and exhale inspiration.

Art + Antiques
I was born in Paris and grew up in a family of celebrated antiques dealers. At age 18, I decided to take a year to teach myself how to restore paintings. My mother and grandmother gave me beautiful 18th century paintings to practice my work. I found restoration fascinating. In a way it was like inhabiting the skin of the painter without being visible. It felt like a tantalizing form of sorcery. With each artist, I had to learn unique techniques to mimic his or her brush strokes and materials.

Aurelie Alvarez

At age 19, I met the love of my life. Freddie and I applied for a fine arts course at the College de Beaux Arts in Avignon. Over the course of my five-year studies, I learned about freedom: freedom of expression and freedom to experiment with different materials, including photography and printmaking. I graduated, and then promptly put my creative path on hold to embark on a new wonderful adventure, being a mother to our two beautiful girls.

As my children grew older, I rediscovered my paintbrushes. I gave one of my first original paintings to my mother, which she proudly displayed in her antiques shop. I continued painting, and by the time I completed my third one, I had received an inquiry from a customer. Anthropologie buyer-at-large Keith Johnson was interested in purchasing several paintings for the brand. It was the opportunity of lifetime, and it launched a 12-year partnership with Anthropologie. Keith’s support and trust were a major confidence booster and allowed me to experiment and grow as an artist. I took off with my own wings at that moment of my life and have never looked back.

Aurelie Alvarez

Old Soul
My favorite way to express myself is through paint and working with my hands. I feel like I’ve been painting all my life. As a child, I was always in my father’s atelier playing with his hammers and screwdrivers. I remember the vivid color of his gouache paint and the hours spent drawing with pencils and markers.

Today I create two different bodies of work, my decorative collection and my figurative collection. They are different but exist in unison, one nourishing the other. My decorative work is inspired by the world of antiques, which impressed my earliest childhood memories. I like to create images and motifs inspired by the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as from the Renaissance period. I create more than 20 layers of materials on canvas, including paint, old wallpapers, textiles, collages and gilding.

“It is important—essential, even—to confront oneself in order to create something you are satisfied with.”

— Aurélie Alvarez

My contemporary work explores the duality between science and spirituality; matter and vibration. This work centers and grounds me. It allows me to ask deep questions through the medium of canvas and paint. Each work is like offering up a prayer or burning an intention and watching it release into the air.

If I was focused solely on my contemporary work, I would miss the poetry of my decorative work. I’d long for the motifs that move me, the color that fills my heart with happiness and gaiety. It is perhaps less spiritual but more emotional and spontaneous. When I’m painting blackbirds, for instance, every canvas produces entirely different creatures with individual personalities. One bird may have a curious nature, while another has a maternal side. Still others are thinkers or lovers.

Inspiration Inside, Outside and Above
So many things inspire me. It can be words, a scent, a breath of wind that catches my hair, a tiny remnant of wallpaper or a little flower pushing up through the concrete. One of my favorite things to do is explore old abandoned ruins. They are savage, raw and rich with energy. When I hear an old house is about to be demolished, I often sneak in to snatch a souvenir scrap of wallpaper or some other remnant. Wallpapers are like strata—layers upon layers, imprints of different time periods and intentions.

Aurelie Alvarez

Countless people and artists have influenced my work. Artist Fabienne Verdier wrote a great book, “Passagére du Silence,” in which she recounts her creative journey to Asia and her apprenticeship there with local artists. The focus of the apprenticeship was repetition. The master would demonstrate an example and instruct his pupils to repeat it until perfect. Such devotion is rare in our culture, where the importance is placed on proving ourselves as quickly as possible. I personally learn a lot from repeating my work.

“It is much easier to describe my emotions and my story with paint than it is with words.”

— Aurélie Alvarez

I’ve never suffered through my creations, including the repetitive parts. There are certainly times when I don’t like a particular painting, but there is never any inner battle or conflict involved. In these situations, I simply need to work harder to make the painting my own. Often these paintings are the ones I end up loving the most.

Aurelie Alvarez

Painting is much like meditation. You set an intention to create something, and while you work, you have no other thoughts. I often feel like I am a canal when I am working. The canal empties, and then something fills it from above. I am simply a vessel, and it’s only once I’ve finished a painting that I will stand back and know why I had to paint it in the first place.

“It’s very good, dust. Besides having the taste of an old biscuit and the faded smell of a very old book, it is the fluid velvet of things, the fine but dry rain, which dilutes excessive hues and uneven tones. It is also the paring of abandonment, the veil of oblivion.”

— Joris-Karl Huysmans, 1895

Aurelie Alvarez

Heart of Matter

I live in the town of Isle sur la Sorgue, a beautiful piece of countryside in Provence, France. It also happens to be one of the most exciting and dynamic hubs for antiques in Europe. Isle sur la Sorgue isn’t a big city, but it is incredibly rich culturally and provides a never-ending source of inspiration for me and the many interior designers and antiques dealers who come here to source.

My house in Isle sur la Sorgue is part of me—or perhaps I’m a part of it—as I enjoy a profoundly symbiotic relationship with it. The structure itself dates back to the 16th century, when it served as an ancient hotel. My studio is located in the house’s rafters, overlooking the rooftops in my town and bringing me closer to heaven. It is not in any way polished; I’ve left it natural and raw. I try to avoid imposing myself on it too much. I’ve even left untouched the wall’s frescoes, handwriting and tiny scraps of original wallpaper. It nourishes my imagination and my need for regeneration. It is 330-square-feet of pure happiness.

Aurelie Alvarez

I hang my canvases directly against the walls of my studio. It creates traces of my work, which I consider to be imprints of my creative life and evidence of my journey— like a footprint in the sand. I feel as if the walls inhale the paint and exhale inspiration.

Art + Antiques
I was born in Paris and grew up in a family of celebrated antiques dealers. At age 18, I decided to take a year to teach myself how to restore paintings. My mother and grandmother gave me beautiful 18th century paintings to practice my work. I found restoration fascinating. In a way it was like inhabiting the skin of the painter without being visible. It felt like a tantalizing form of sorcery. With each artist, I had to learn unique techniques to mimic his or her brush strokes and materials.

Aurelie Alvarez

At age 19, I met the love of my life. Freddie and I applied for a fine arts course at the College de Beaux Arts in Avignon. Over the course of my five-year studies, I learned about freedom: freedom of expression and freedom to experiment with different materials, including photography and printmaking. I graduated, and then promptly put my creative path on hold to embark on a new wonderful adventure, being a mother to our two beautiful girls.

As my children grew older, I rediscovered my paintbrushes. I gave one of my first original paintings to my mother, which she proudly displayed in her antiques shop. I continued painting, and by the time I completed my third one, I had received an inquiry from a customer. Anthropologie buyer-at-large Keith Johnson was interested in purchasing several paintings for the brand. It was the opportunity of lifetime, and it launched a 12-year partnership with Anthropologie. Keith’s support and trust were a major confidence booster and allowed me to experiment and grow as an artist. I took off with my own wings at that moment of my life and have never looked back.

Aurelie Alvarez

Old Soul
My favorite way to express myself is through paint and working with my hands. I feel like I’ve been painting all my life. As a child, I was always in my father’s atelier playing with his hammers and screwdrivers. I remember the vivid color of his gouache paint and the hours spent drawing with pencils and markers.

Today I create two different bodies of work, my decorative collection and my figurative collection. They are different but exist in unison, one nourishing the other. My decorative work is inspired by the world of antiques, which impressed my earliest childhood memories. I like to create images and motifs inspired by the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as from the Renaissance period. I create more than 20 layers of materials on canvas, including paint, old wallpapers, textiles, collages and gilding.

“It is important—essential, even—to confront oneself in order to create something you are satisfied with.”

— Aurélie Alvarez

My contemporary work explores the duality between science and spirituality; matter and vibration. This work centers and grounds me. It allows me to ask deep questions through the medium of canvas and paint. Each work is like offering up a prayer or burning an intention and watching it release into the air.

If I was focused solely on my contemporary work, I would miss the poetry of my decorative work. I’d long for the motifs that move me, the color that fills my heart with happiness and gaiety. It is perhaps less spiritual but more emotional and spontaneous. When I’m painting blackbirds, for instance, every canvas produces entirely different creatures with individual personalities. One bird may have a curious nature, while another has a maternal side. Still others are thinkers or lovers.

Inspiration Inside, Outside and Above
So many things inspire me. It can be words, a scent, a breath of wind that catches my hair, a tiny remnant of wallpaper or a little flower pushing up through the concrete. One of my favorite things to do is explore old abandoned ruins. They are savage, raw and rich with energy. When I hear an old house is about to be demolished, I often sneak in to snatch a souvenir scrap of wallpaper or some other remnant. Wallpapers are like strata—layers upon layers, imprints of different time periods and intentions.

Aurelie Alvarez

Countless people and artists have influenced my work. Artist Fabienne Verdier wrote a great book, “Passagére du Silence,” in which she recounts her creative journey to Asia and her apprenticeship there with local artists. The focus of the apprenticeship was repetition. The master would demonstrate an example and instruct his pupils to repeat it until perfect. Such devotion is rare in our culture, where the importance is placed on proving ourselves as quickly as possible. I personally learn a lot from repeating my work.

“It is much easier to describe my emotions and my story with paint than it is with words.”

— Aurélie Alvarez

I’ve never suffered through my creations, including the repetitive parts. There are certainly times when I don’t like a particular painting, but there is never any inner battle or conflict involved. In these situations, I simply need to work harder to make the painting my own. Often these paintings are the ones I end up loving the most.

Aurelie Alvarez

Painting is much like meditation. You set an intention to create something, and while you work, you have no other thoughts. I often feel like I am a canal when I am working. The canal empties, and then something fills it from above. I am simply a vessel, and it’s only once I’ve finished a painting that I will stand back and know why I had to paint it in the first place.

“It’s very good, dust. Besides having the taste of an old biscuit and the faded smell of a very old book, it is the fluid velvet of things, the fine but dry rain, which dilutes excessive hues and uneven tones. It is also the paring of abandonment, the veil of oblivion.”

— Joris-Karl Huysmans, 1895

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