Interview with the artist Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière, who participated in an artist residency on the island of Saint Barthélemy through Space Gallery St Barth.
Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière The Dive, 2021, acrylic painting on linen canvas (48 x 36 in / 121.92 x 91.44 cm)
Sébastien Martinon: Who are You?
Sophie-Alexia: Foremost a painter, and a person who uses her hands.
Sébastien Martinon: Describe yourself in three words.
Sophie-Alexia: Open-minded, inquisitive, romantic.
Sébastien Martinon: Is this the first time you have participated in an artist residency? And what does it consist of?
Sophie-Alexia: Yes! Mainly it requires the ability to adapt one's practice to a new environment, minimizing materials, and taking inventory of everything in sight to let it make its way into the work.
There is no better influence than to travel with one's practice - it will, no matter what, expand it.
Sébastien Martinon: What are the challenges of a residency and the unique challenges in this particular residency?
Sophie-Alexia: The challenges can be starting over, like setting up a studio for the first time so it can take a moment to get situated and get into a groove. Working on an island outdoors presents itself with all kinds of challenges - being at the mercy of the weather has been a humbling reminder that I am not always in control, and that's ultimately better for my work. The varying conditions between the rain, the heat and the sunlight forced me to yield to it and to work with it to my advantage.
"Everything I need to paint is in my body, not in the paint."
- Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière
Sébastien Martinon: Tell us about the work you are creating in situ.
Sophie-Alexia: Whenever I travel with my practice, I try my best to understand the land that I am working on. I want to know its history, its influences, its materials and its people. I took interest in learning about the first reported indigenous people on the island, the Arawaks, and how the Arawaks used the land. Since many of the Arawaks and later fishermen ate conch and discarded the shells at shore, parts of the island became shell-ridden and it reamins an integral part of Saint Barth's shoreline. In my painting practice on the island I used shells, and local plants to create reliefs and patterns as a way to give a nod to the island and to modify and evolve the paintings.
Sébastien Martinon: How has this informed your work?
Sophie-Alexia: Because of the persistent winds, the materials I use to create reliefs in the paintings would shift about so I learned to work with the winds. I learned to create ghost-like layering patterns and to give the paintings an additional character of wave-like formations, naturally rolling through the pieces. In a deeper sense, the lack of control allowed me to loosen up my hand, to focus on spaciousness and movement, and to give the works a sense of history rather than focusing on detail.
Sébastien Martinon: Are there any permanent changes to your process that have come about as a part of this residency?
Sophie-Alexia: Yes, I will undoubtedly continue to explore more varied materials, and even use them as painting tools since they each have their own personality. I hope to make room for them, to give way to more spontaneous, energized and open space throughout my painting, especially since so much of the work I do is about movements and patterns within the natural world.
Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière in her painting practice on the island, she used shells, and local plants to create reliefs and patterns as a way to give an acknowledgement to the island and to modify and evolve the paintings.
Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière Origins, 2021, acrylic on canvas (48 x 48 in / 121.92 x 121.92 cm)
Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière Wonderland, 2021, acrylic painting on linen canvas (40 x 40 in / 101.60 x 101.60 cm)
Sébastien Martinon: What have you learnt about yourself during this residency?
Sophie-Alexia: That everything I need to paint is in my body, not in the paint.
Sébastien Martinon: Would you recommend residencies to other artists?
Sophie-Alexia: Yes, without question!
Sébastien Martinon: How has the particular environment influenced or inspired you?
Sophie-Alexia: The warmth and cadence of the people here have been most inspiring to me. Having access to swimming in the ocean has taught me a lot about how to be in my body and perhaps where the blockages are (which always show up in the work) but mostly the people have taught me more about how to be in my mind. Having the privilege to learn from people who live by and with the ocean and are more closely in relationship with the natural elements is a gift.
"So much of the work I do is about movements and patterns within the natural world."
- Sophie-Alexia Joly de Lotbinière
Sébastien Martinon: Would you do it again?
Sophie-Alexia: Yes, a thousand times over.
Sébastien Martinon: What are your three essential items for your art kit to travel with?
Sophie-Alexia: A few Golden paints that I can't find anywhere else, my paint sprayer, and my boots.
Sébastien Martinon: And what can you not live without while away from home?
Sophie-Alexia: Connection and coffee.