It’s a select few that are brave or insane enough to dedicate their lives single-mindedly to the one thing that drives them wild. Françoise Nielly is one such individual. Passionate, eccentric, driven. As Sarah Jayne Fell discovers, this artist’s unabashed celebration of life is the magic ingredient for this degree of creative brilliance.
Françoise Nielly’s immense painted portraits exude a striking fieriness that lures you like a moth. Her paintings possess a visible energy, not just in the vibrancy of their luminescent colours or in the intensity of the characters captured in thick, saturated oil paint; it is tangible particularly in the way that the artist herself is so prominent in her final products of frenzied magnificence.
Each flash of colour in Françoise’s work evokes an impression of speed, passion, eccentricity. A charismatic Julie Delpy look-alike stands at her easel facing a two-metre-wide blank canvas. She is armed with a single painting knife and a table-sized palette of paint that “looks like coloured mayonnaise”. No forward planning, no methodical deliberation. “It’s a very instinctive and impulsive work. There is no thinking about it, just the doing, with the energy and the mood that is present,” says the artist.
Then comes a flurry of awe-invoking madness: fluorescent paint is haphazardly slapped across canvas with a trowel-shaped palette knife and cut, diced and smeared like some kind of culinary extravaganza. “It’s only at the very end that I need to step back and evaluate the work to balance colours or volumes if needed. But when I do that, the canvas is already filled up. It cannot be undone, just touched up.” Realising that the ease with which she throws together a masterpiece is a little disconcerting, if not completely mind-boggling, she adds: “Creation is a very natural process for me. I don’t have to torture myself to create.”
So, who is Françoise Nielly? One could hardly expect the standard response from such a colourful creative (born here, grew up there, studied this, worked doing that). “I am an artist and a passionate one,” Françoise begins. “I am everything and its opposite: orange juice and red wine, exceptional and dull, fashion victim and desert island, lover and child, black and white, but never in between, always in the extreme.”
And her driving force? “I am an image devourer. I eat them. I breathe them. I absorb them through my eyes, my skin and all my perceptions. Everything I see feeds my inspiration: faces, books, landscapes, the way clouds move, or the reflection of neon colours…I am full of pictures, light, vibrations…and that is where my inspiration spurts from – inside.”
Growing up between Cannes and Saint-Tropez and now based in Paris, Françoise is never far from the quality of light, the sense of colour and the pulsating atmosphere that permeates the south of France. Creating art full time for more than twenty years, she is inspired by life, by love, her love for life, and particularly, her love for what she does; this is a woman who is artist prior to everything.
“I am a passionate woman and I am passionate about my life, about living my life with intensity. That is the way I approach painting,” she explains. “Somehow, painting may be the love of my life; and as in every romantic relationship, it’s a moving territory with highs and lows, fights, weariness, desire, fire and water. It can be exhausting, exhilarating, boring, fun, sparkling… Whatever I go through with it, I just can’t stop loving it. Art is my life, my whole life. I just can’t imagine not being an artist. It is the core of my life.”
Talk about never working a day in your life, Françoise Nielly is the epitome and the wild extreme of what life, to many, should be all about. Someone once said, “If you don’t know what your passion is, realise that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it.” Françoise, in all her passionate eccentricity, is a person to be learnt from. Not only from the truly inspirational work she produces, or from the way she captures the life of her subjects and translates their and her own energy through the medium of sizzling fluorescent paint onto canvas; but from her life philosophy, which is a dazzling work of art in itself.
Published in one small seed magazine, issue 17, December 2009.