Something completely fresh today from artist Adele Renault, who tells us she is thinking about the beauty of nature more than ever. With this new mural of green leafy covering in Liège, Belgium, she is beginning a series she will call Plantasia (#plantasia) and will be developing into a new solo gallery show focusing on the plant world. It’s as old as the hills and the forests, but this new focus feels fresh to this aerosol master. We asked Adele how this new direction began to grow.
BSA: Millions of people worldwide are finally venturing out without masks, and many countries are opening up after a horrific year during the Pandemic. You are not an exception. You are painting murals again—only this time with a new direction. Now you are painting plants. Did the lockdown and the isolation make you re-think the direction of your career?
Adele Renault: I never really stopped painting, luckily murals were considered like construction, and most murals could still go ahead; we are fortunate. It’s probably the only cultural sector that hasn’t been completely devastated. Traveling was an issue, of course, and many events got canceled or perpetually postponed. What the lockdown allowed me to do (just like everyone else) was to slow down a bit, and for me, that meant more time for gardening/planting. That’s a passion that’s literally been “growing” my whole life without me even being aware of it.
As a kid, I always had to help my mum in her large vegetable garden, sometimes fun, sometimes felt more like a chore. But I was subconsciously gathering up all that information being passed down to me—the moon calendar, what to plant when, how to prepare the earth. And then, like so many, I lived in cities where gardening didn’t have a place.
Until I moved to L.A. and was fascinated by the vegetation at every street corner, everything and anything seemed to be growing. And then a revelation came when I realized I was enjoying growing things in pots, didn’t even need to have a patch or a backyard.
I occasionally went to help my friend Ron Finley in his garden, and that’s where I realized you could have a massive garden, all growing in pots if you are surrounded by concrete. And pots are actually fun; you can compose pots like a painting, put together different things that grow at different speeds or heights, play with colors and textures. So right now, I spend a lot of time growing stuff indoors in pots and veggies outside.
BSA: Why did you choose plants as your subjects?
AR: I’ve always painted the mundane, whatever was around me. People, pigeons. I see beauty everywhere and in everything, and for me, it was always about showing beauty where you least expect it, but the subject could have been anything. It never had to be “special” to be painted. Now, yet again, the subject chose me rather than the other way around. I spend more time looking at plants from up close, and so I end up painting plants. But it’s not an overnight decision. The seed was planted a long time ago, quite literally.
BSA: Will you paint plant life that is native to the country or city where you will be creating?
AR: Probably, but not always. I will repaint the mundane, like stinging nettles or a cabbage leaf. Of course, I will sometimes make site-specific installations, but I also paint what speaks to me or fits a building. Right now, I am starting to work on a solo show. It will be in Belgium, and I am in Europe now, but I miss Los Angeles a lot, so I will probably end up painting some California plants.
BSA: What are your feelings about the color green? You’ll be using gallons of it moving forward.
AR: I wouldn’t say I like green. When I buy clothes or shoes, I would never buy something green. Or paint the walls inside my house green! But I love green in nature. I think everybody does instinctively like green nature, green plants. And in a way, when I cover a building in a green leaf, well, I m quite literally letting nature envelop and reclaim a bit of manufactured concrete. Even though it’s not eco graffiti and spray paint isn’t quite “green nature” taking over, but it can at least symbolize it and inspire people for a greener future. I am obviously not the first or last person to paint plants, and I think it’s one of the natural subject matters, just like portraiture. But I hope to bring something new with my approach.
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