LONDON.- Mead Carney
presenting The Great Escape, a selection of paintings from Nicole Etiennes most renowned body of works.
"Painting is just like love making. Sometimes slow, sensuous strokes of the brush and prolonged drags of charcoal are right. And other times quick splatters and fast lush swipes of color are the technical narrative a painting needs to reveal the story. One of my favorite artists, Eric Fischl, told me that if I am not feeling what I am painting, nobody else will either. I actualize joy while creating art, sort of rev up the engine and materialize sex, love, lust... whatever it is I am trying to evoke." Nicole Etienne, 2013.
As visually striking as they are conceptually intriguing, the paintings invite the viewer to engage on a deeply personal level, to ponder their own identity and to surrender to a process of self-reflection through encountering Etiennes elaborate subjects.
Combining elements of a Contemporary figurative style with Rubenesque notions of colour and sensuality, Etiennes ethereal scenes entice the audience into a surreal world of moments of private passions and dream-like scenarios. Emphasizing movement through expressive strokes of colour, many of Etiennes works draw inspiration from classical literature and mythology, firmly establishing an intricate narrative to accompany the visual imagery of the paintings.
This narrative is enhanced by the artists attention devoted to the most minute details included in each scene, and by the use of a delicate distribution of light and shadow to bring romantic landscapes, enigmatic interiors and sensuous female nudes to life.
Etiennes work explores self-identity as a mirror, juxtaposing the viewers hidden thoughts and intimate desires with the direct openness of her subjects. Encouraging the audience to explore their emotional response to her paintings, she initiates a process of questioning and refinement of our understanding of ourselves as individuals, well as an awareness of the relationships surrounding us.
Within this interplay of visual narrative and self-reflection, Etienne positions the female figure as a romantic heroine within the intricate tales her works convey to the audience. Far from being simply a subject of the male gaze, the female nude challenges the viewer in her bold directness of presentation, drawing attention to the fact that the subjects indeed represent multiple layers of meaning, especially due to the fashion in which these intimate encounters have been exposed on canvas. Etiennes subjects are presented with an aura of openness and candour, completely self-assured in their environment and confident in their expressions of intimacy.
The surface of the works acts as a focal point for the audience, drawing attention to the delicate production process of Etiennes paintings, involving the layering of charcoal, under-painting and oils, the outcome resulting in an almost magnetic effect on the viewer. Whilst retaining the swiftness of watercolours and combining it with the depth of oils as the basis of her visual aesthetic, the artist frequently experiments with incorporating more unusual materials, such as copper leaf, Swarovski crystals and metallic pigment on glitter canvas.
Nicole Etienne was born in Santa Cruz California in 1974. She started her formal arts education at UC Santa Barbara, transferring to UC Santa Cruz where she received her BFA in 1997. She studied abroad at the Lorenzo Medici School of Art in Italy and graduated with her MFA cum laude in 2009 from the New York Academy of Art.
Her paintings have been exhibited in solo and group shows internationally and are part of prestigious private and corporate collections, such as the Getty family collection (San Francisco, USA), the private collections of the founders of Yahoo (Palo Alto, USA) and Travelocity & C.T.O. (San Carlos, USA), the Pepsi collection (North Carolina, USA) and the Isle De France Hotel St. Barthelemy. She has previously worked and lived in Italy and Ireland and is currently living in London.