London-based surrealist photographer Madame Peripetie finds inspiration in all sorts of things: the work of Michel Gondry, Björk, science fiction literature, post-punk, dada, and the art of sculpture. She explores the boundaries between fashion, sculpture and the human body. Her work has been featured in magazines, expositions and books and she has been awarded the prestigious advertisement photography prize in the category People/Emotion.
Her work seems robbed of realism. It brings to mind the likes of Carnivàle, Alice in Wonderland, (de)formation and geometry. Her images are stylistic, animalistic, powerful and wonderfully colourful. In short, her work is amazing. We talked to Madame to find out what’s going on in that very talented mind of hers.
Interview by Sandy Hayes
When did you first know you were going to be, or perhaps already were, an artist?
I have never perceived myself as being one. I’ve always possessed this ability of imagining a myriad of uncanny characters that need visualising and I found a medium to breathe life into them. I see myself more as a homo ludens, experimenting with body, texture and abstract sculptural elements.
Were/are there any artists who truly inspire you?
Well, surrealism in general but I adore Robert Wilson, Gregory Crewdson, Michael Gondry, Bjork and lately David Shrigley, who just makes me smirk.
Were you always interested in fashion, or did that follow as a subject for your work?
I am not interested in fashion as such, I am more tempted with its development and relation to the body and its role in the perception of beauty. My work focuses mainly on the synergy between human body, sculpture and (also fashion) design and their interactive synthesis.
Your work combines sculpture, fashion, colours, and geometry and that all with a distinct surreal quality. Could you tell us something about the creative process leading up to your current work?
In one of the recent interviews someone described my style as a minimalistic opulence which is quite a precise definition of my work. I love experimenting with colour, shape and composition and my approach is predominantly intuitive. I never know 100% what the exact “culmination act” will look like –but I have a strong perception of composition and how certain components should be hybridized together in an image.
You seem to have a deep fascination with body parts and hair. Any idea where that stems from?
Well, mainly from Surrealism (Dali and Bunuel) – and its deconstruction of the common body perception – but also from Science Fiction literature and nerd culture. I used to devour books and comic books when I was a teenager – I was intrigued by the body as a high-tech robotic sculptural hybrid – even as an abstract matter without a tangible body, a philosophical, dematerialised object or a construction site.
What is your favourite era in history to draw inspiration from?
There is no particular era that fascinates me most. I cite surrealism and dada frequently because of their rebellion against the settled rules and heterogeneous synthesis of the tangible and unreal. At the same time I am engaged in modern influences and communication technologies, perception of an individual and the significance of modern pop culture.
If asked, (how) do you describe your work to people who haven’t seen it yet?
Minimalistic opulence (so precise!), quirky, explosion of colours, hybrid.
You have also been working on stop-motion pictures. What attracts you in that? And do you think you might take that a step further and become a film maker? For instance, I could see you working with David Lynch to create one hell of a film about wonderful creatures in the woods at night, or something along those lines..
Well yes I have been working on some film projects recently. I love stop-motion but it takes ages to complete it and I am just too impatient to wait that long and I get disinterested very quickly. But there is something about moving image that is thrilling: you have so much more opportunities with sound design, editing, post production and all that components that are non-existent in photography. But both have their own beauty and strength for sure.
Could you tell us what some of your favourite films and books are?
There are so many. Classic: Blade runner Recent one: Drive. I think the new Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant (although I’ve never been a huge fan of Sherlock stories). When it comes to books it’s difficult – as there are so many – I came back to JGBallard and Stanislaw Lem recently. I quite enjoyed the new Murakami as well.
On that note, what kind of music inspires you?
New wave, punk, pop music, electronic, industrial. Anything that gives you pleasant and unexpected sensation inside your brain! I’ve always been a big fan of Einstürzende Neubauten and Joy Division. They have this kind of compelling rawness and darkness in them.
I’ve come across a quote from you saying “If I understand something completely, I’m not interested in it anymore.” On that note, do you always have a complete grasp on your own work? Or does it live its own life and surprise you?
It’s about giving yourself freedom for improvisation and accident.
Do you have one favourite photograph; one of your own? And one by another artist?
Tricky question, as there are so many talented photographers out there. I would suggest a blog I follow with excitement – 500 photographers – an enormous source of boundless inspiration. I personally admire Viviane Sassen and her brilliant perception of colour, shape, light and shadow, Nick Knight’s minimalism and Martin Parr’s cheeky humour.
What are you up to at the moment?
Working on 2 photo projects – one involves neuroscience and the other illustration and technology. There will be some new work coming for a Swiss magazine “Opera” based loosely on an opera Tristan and Isolde and I shot the new PR image for the interdisciplinary FashionClash 2012.
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