Renee French: Statement
Renée French in Conversation – June 2022
Excerpts from an interview with Claire de Carteret
How does the concept of ‘miniature’ or working on a small scale resonate with you or your practice?
“I have always worked small, there is no time that I have worked large. I used to illustrate comic books and children’s books and I like the fact that a book was something people could hold. The works were done at 100%, I didn’t create the works large and then reduce them down for the book. When I started doing work for exhibitions I continued to do work that size or even smaller.
The idea of intimacy is important to me. Making a work so small that a person has to walk right up and put their face into the work brings them in, they can’t see it if they walk past it, they have to really engage. Sometimes viewers will miss it if it’s really small, but if they don’t miss it they will go up and feel a connection with having to physically engage with the work in that way. Getting really close.
Storytelling combined with surrealism is how I would describe my work. I like to build characters and their story. I played with facial features because there are particular elements in a drawing that you have to do to make a face read as a face, there are key elements like an ear, nose or an eye that put the characters together.
I started to make portraits and then I began to explore how far I could push it before it wasn’t cute anymore. Thinking about distortion, and at what point does it turn from cute to ugly. How far can you go before it becomes something disturbing? Imagine if that character was walking around in real life on the street. How scary is that? Can it still be considered cute on paper when in reality it would be a hideous monster.
Can you talk through the work you are making for ‘Small Dreams’? Why do you use the materials you use?
The pieces for Small Dreams themselves are sort of sad characters, they have their heads in their hands, either crying or sad. Although you could also interpret them in another way, as stressed out or anxious. I think if I’m being honest they are about anxiety. They’re definitely COVID lockdown works.
For this exhibition I have used scratch boards and they look like metal plate etchings, but they’re not. You scratch off the top ink to reveal the white surface underneath. It is incredibly detailed, I use exacto blades to scratch it off and there is a very high contrast as there is no grey tone like in my other work where I use graphite”