War of the Golden Cupcake

Dear Shaded Viewers,

I was intrigued -and instantly attracted- when I discovered Ciou's paintings and illustrations. The Toulouse-born, Paris-based, artist manages to conjure up a world that is both eerie and sensual, gentle and frightening. The richness of her work is intense and riveting. It is made of multiple layers, combining several aesthetics that have influenced her and made her the woman she is today. Ciou envisages ambiguity and ambivalence as key human traits and I don't think anyone would disagree. Her work expresses something that we all share, regardless of our culture, social background or education. She taps into hidden energies and impulses that leave us feeling bare and exposed. In that sense, her images have a deeply human and universal quality. She will be part of Amstersdam's Affordable Art Fair at the end of the month and has several others projects lined up, including an exhibition she's preparing with Anne Brunet at Galerie GHP in Toulouse.


Where are you from and what was your training? 

I was born in Toulouse and studied at the Beaux Arts there. I soon realized I had to find my own way and distanced myself from the teaching. I learnt a lot with the local underground scene, whether it be street art or festivals. When I was a student, I couldn't find my place within the school's conceptual environment and thought. I therefore became drawn to illustration and underground culture.

Have painting and drawing always been passions for you?

Yes, they have. I've been drawing and painting since I was a kid, always with passion. In my case, creating is a deep-rooted thing. It's a daily need and fulfillment, too. 

When did you start creating? What was the trigger?

It all came very naturally. When I was a kid, I always had my drawing kit with me. I didn't play with other children and wanted to escape into my own world. I observed nature a lot, particularly birds. I logically started reproducing nature around me. In fact, it's still a big source of inspiration now. As I got older, my parents made me discover museums and their treasures. I guess a major trigger was Frida Kahlo's work.

How would you define your style?

Recently, foreign critics have associated me with lowbrow art. It's an American movement I feel totally comfortable with. I share many references with these artists, such as rock music, tatoos, comics, B horror movies, as well as Mexican culture, el dia de los muertos and Posada's etchings. Still, my work has always been strongly influenced by Japanese culture. Hokusai's work has always fascinated me, as well as Japanese drawing and representation techniques. I love this culture, because it's intense and extreme. I like to define what I do as "Nekro Kawai".   

Secret Garden

Your images are tender and cruel at the same time. How do you explain such duality?

I work on these aspects, because I feel that they reflect life. I'm very interested in vanity. Representing the skull -which is one of its most famous forms- is necessary to stress this idea. My characters evolve in a context that is hostile and wonderful at the same time. Dreams and nightmares overlap. The women I choose to represent in my work are strong, close to nymphs that are in harmony with nature. I want to express strong emotions, which we normally don't voice or keep hidden inside. I take these feelings and give them a stage. 

What are the traditions and cultures you feel attracted to, besides the ones you've already talked about?

There's always a strong narrative element within my work. I like telling personal stories, through which feelings find a second life. The viewer is in a position to appropriate it or draw parallels with his or her own story. I always intend on putting women at the forefront within my figurative work. It expresses all kinds of feelings, violence, softness, magic or fear. It doesn't matter what they are or where they come from. I just have to show them. 

The Wedding with the Dark Tree

How is your work perceived in general? Do you feel that people get it?

I've had a really good reception so far. People are moved by what they see, there's no indifference. My work has been acknowledged in Europe and America the most. It's slightly harder in France, where aesthetic codes are not the same and interest in foreign cultures is slowly growing. 

Who are the artists you admire the most?

I admire Frida Kahlo. Tim Burton influenced me a lot, too. Lowbrow artists, such as Camille Rose Garcia and Mark Ryden, are references for me. They made me dream and inspired me. I love their courage and determination. They will continue to paint and create until their very last breath, which is what true artists always do.

Philippe Pourhashemi

A freelance fashion writer, consultant and stylist, Philippe Pourhashemi was born in Tehran in 1976. He grew up in Paris, before moving to Scotland to study Foreign Languages. His passions are fashion and culture, as well as music and film. He writes and styles features for Metal in Barcelona, Behind the Blinds in Brussels, Contributor in Stockholm, Veoir in New York and SKP in Beijing. He was named Fucking Young's Editor-at-Large in 2016 and has contributed to ASVOF since 2008, acting as Correspondent-at-Large since 2012. An avid traveler, he likes to explore exotic fashion weeks and unexpected destinations whenever he can.