In the Studio with Collagist MarieClaude Rivé
“Farewell” (2019) Paper on cardboard
From the speckled reptilian snake skins to placid Greek sculptures, winding staircases and cathedral archways the color of ochre, the collages of emerging artist MariClaude Rivé possess both movement and tranquility. Warm hues play against cool hues. Geometry coincides with the organic. Very few contemporary collagists combine texture, figure and landscape so fluently and yet still leave room for surprise.
On a sun-dappled morning in late August, this writer ventured out to meet the artist at her home near Saint-Florentin in northern Burgundy. Tucked away past a dirt driveway and hidden among a circle of verdant trees, Marie’s home and studio revealed a palatial backdrop. The white walls of her compound reflected the rays of the mediterranean sun. Works from different time periods greeted this writer like flowers. While Marie is soft-spoken and gentle in demeanor, her works, however, belie a fierce fire.
VV.: Marie, please tell me about yourself?:
MCR.: “I was born in Paris. Now I live partly in Paris, and partly in Bourgogne, a countryside of France.”
VV.: Was collage always your medium of choice?
MCR.: “Yes. I have also used acrylic paint and pastel. I try other techniques. I’ve made my own paint using ash that has been ground up. I’ve also used grass and floral dyes, or some colored powders. I’ve tried to make things with cardboard and fabric as well. Creating was always a part of my life. But collage began with a friend of mine, Anne, who was very creative. It was in the 1970’s, with a very good art teacher. I don’t remember her name – I was very young – but I remember that she told me: “Don’t move papers before gluing!” These words are still a part of my creating process”
VV.: Why collage?
MCR.: “Everybody needs to create, to transform a feeling, a picture, an idea, or whatever you receive, into something else, because just receiving is not enough. As in a breathing, in and out, and never the same, that’s life. I’m virtually autodidactic, I did only one year of study in art, but collage is an easy way to create, your artist’s studio can be a table in your room, images are every where, often full of colors, you can use scissors or just torn them, and put them together in your own way. ”
VV.: What do you remember from your childhood?
MCR.: A happy childhood. But later, when I was a young girl, as most teenagers are inclined, I had a rebellious streak and refused to obey. It was sometimes painful to find my own way between all of that mess.
Slide 1: “Espace-temps”, 2018 paper on canvas, 40 x 40 cm / Slide 2: “Dream”, 2013 paper on cardboard, A3 / Slide 3: “Échappée”, 2019 paper on canvas, 23 x 29 cm
VV.: I was surprised to see that you’ve been making collages for close to thirty years. How did you start? Where did your inspiration come from?
MCR.: “It began with a need to create in my teenage years. At this time, I was fascinated by Dada and the Surrealists, the Cubist school and Le Douanier Rousseau. Paris was, and is, a so great place for art, you can see a lot of different works. I remenber to have seen an exibition of Japanese students. The story was that Le Louvre didn’t agree to send La Joconde for an exibition in Tokyo because of the risk of an airplane accident. Then this art students have make each their own Joconde, and send them to Paris. It was so creative, all different, and all La Joconde indeed. That made me feel that creating is an answer of a lot of things…and that there is no one answer, but an answer in each of us. In the same way, I have made collages with some other artists, in separate ways, with the same paper equipment, results was so different, and all interesting.
Today, I don’t know where is my inspiration. I like very much Italian primitives for their landscapes in background which give to me the idea to take a walk inside. My inspiration came from others’ work…that gave me the impetus to start. Or my inspiration came from within, just because it’s time. Colors are very important to me. I need to produce collages or other works. It’s a part of my life, something that roots me in reality, and something that free me of reality…”
“Making a collage is similar to [taking] a journey...”
VV.: What’s your process?
MCR.: “Sometimes I have to create from another work, like the Japanese students, in this case I try to build the collage before to search the material, shapes and colors. But most of the time, I don’t know what will be the final work, I just begin to take a look at old pieces of paper, to open revues, keep some pages, put them on the support (cardboard, wood or canvas)…The final piece will be the fruit of papers meetings, the result of a conscious or unconscious idea and the choice between of a lot of possibilities. “Why use this image and not another?”, “Why place an image here and not there?”. Making good collages is a gift from something I can’t quite discern…
I have two main ways of working : Paste as you go, mainly with torn papers, and small pieces, in this case colors are my guideline. My other way is to place pieces of paper, to compose before gluing, then glue without moving the pieces. Usually with this method, I put rather big pieces on the support, this to avoid my “peur de la page blanche” (that’s mean no way to begin) and often I end up by removing this first pieces when I have find the way of the work.”
VV.: When I make collages myself, I find it necessary to walk away and come back to glean a fresh perspective. Do you do the same thing?
MCR.: “ Yes, I use a mirror to “see” from an alternative side…[taking a mirror and holding it above a collage] I see the reflection, upside down. This allows me to see with fresh eyes – really fresh eyes. And as you do, I go away, and come back later. ”
"For creating a good collage, it’s useful to incorporate texture.."
VV.: Your work is dense with texture. In “Fracture” (1978), for example, an open window sheds light on an easel, a figure climbs a staircase, figures romp on a beach and the face of Claudet Colbert peers out. There’s a sense of both rest and play. Curvilinear petals interlock while arrow-heads weave in and out. Would you agree that texture is a big part of your practice?
“Fracture”, 1978, 50 × 70 cm, paper on cardboard
VV.: I see you also insert Sanskrit in certain quiet areas and incorporate turrets from towers and hard rocky crags. These natural elements suggest landscape. You mentioned the influence of diving and underwater exploration which makes perfect sense in light of your approach:
The Art World Establishment
VV.: How would an artist in France establish herself?
MCR.: “I think it’s imperative to have a good network, the art market is not easy to infiltrate from the outside, so finding a good agent is essential. Actually, create, be famous, selling aren’t the same jobs. My background with agents and exibitions is very small, because of lack of luck or because of my inappropriate behavior, I have never known how to sell myself, and never tried a lot. It was certanly a mistake of mine; when I was younger, I was included in exibitions with a bit of success and people encouraged me but I never felt comfortable with the snobbery. Today, I can say I’m out of network, I’m not a good adviser.”
Work With Alzheimers Patients
VV.: In a previous email, you mentioned the privilege of working with Alzeimer’s patients. Can you tell us a little bit about that?:
MCR.: “It was a great experience. Making collages with patients isn’t an artistic approach, it’s an art therapy process. As supervisor you have to focus on the needs of people rather than on the finished collage. The guideline isn’t to make a great collage but to bring patients a sense of well-being, to support them, not to direct them, or to teach them something new, as they no longer know how to learn. But their capacity to feel is practically intact so the chalenge is to give them the feeling that they can make nice things together. Most people don’t think that they have artistic capacities, Alzheimers patients as the others. To see that they can do something creative, to see other people appreciate what they have done, is usefull to restore a damaged self-esteem, and so to fight against the depression.
I kept the gluing of all pieces as my job, at the end of the meeting, and it was my artistic challenge to do something good with the choices of my contributors. Providing my adjustments wouldn’t be too visible, most good the collage will be, most successfull will be the process.”
VV.: What are your plans for the future?:
MCR.: ”I will continue to do collages. And I have to do something like a totem for the garden, in wood, metal…. something new for me. I would like to work with alzeihmer’s people again. And maybe make a collage workshop for ordinary people. I will surely travel again, I don’t know exactly when and how. I have to organize all of that. Time isn’t my best friend … I can going inside a collage in the early morning… and the day is already over. You can see, my plans are pretty light. I am in a period of my life where I am looking less for the realization of something than the rightness of being. “
Vanité au vignoble, 2008 paper on wood, 34 x 74 cm.