Q&A WITH ANNIE KEVANS
The artist on her work for Jean Paul Gaultier
by Zoe Dickens
10 April 2014
As her works goes on display as part of the Barbican's new exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, we talk to artist Annie Kevans about muses, portraits and working with fashion's enfant terrible.
Tell us a bit about the artwork you have created for the exhibition.
I painted portraits of 30 muses chosen by Jean Paul for the show. I also did a couple of him but they’re not in the muses section because he felt uncomfortable calling himself his own muse!
Is this idea of the muse something you identify with as an artist?
Yes, you always hear about Picasso’s muses and other big artists’ muses, I think there’s a club of people out there who probably try to be people’s muses which I think is quite interesting. I normally paint series of people that are tied together by some kind of shared history which I suppose is where the idea of the muse comes from.
This project was interesting for me because I’m actually from France, I was born in Cannes but my parents are British, so Jean Paul’s muses are quite familiar to me because a lot of them are French. It was about a whole era too, I think most of them are from the 80s and 90s, with just a smattering from today such as Kate Moss, although Jean Paul worked with her when she was very young so she probably still counts as 90s.
Do you have a favourite piece?
Well, I really like the Kate Moss one! Everyone else seems to like Bowie, I found that quite difficult to do but I’m pleased with the result now. Amy Winehouse, Boy George and Karen Elson are all great. There was one of Kristen McMenamy, it’s not up so I’m not sure what happened to it but I really like that one.
How did you set about creating them?
I worked from photographs although I have actually met quite a few of the subjects at Jean Paul’s events. I went to his couture show in Paris in January and sat behind Farida Khelfa and Catherine Deneuve - that was very special. I’m quite used to working from photos so for me it was probably the easiest way to work. Also the pieces are quite time specific because a lot of the muses had to be from a certain era. For example, David Bowie was from his Ziggy Stardust era because that’s what inspired Jean Paul’s collection, so it wouldn’t have been helpful to meet him now anyway.
Your work is quite simple in comparison to Gaultier’s designs, do you think that was the reason he chose you?
Yes, when he saw them he said that they were really fresh and different. Usually when people like my work it is because it’s not the sort of heavy, severe oil painting type stuff, it is light and clean. They’re quick and they’re quite sketchy which I think Jean Paul liked. He said they were ‘fresh and contemporary’ and that he thought they were youthful and modern which is great because I think he’d hate to be associated with anything old-fashioned!
Is this the first time you’ve worked with Gaultier?
Yes, he’s so fantastic. Completely by chance I was there when he first saw the pieces and it was brilliant because he was really really happy with them. He told me I was a part of his family now and was just really warm and open and welcoming. At first I was obviously a bit nervous but when I met him I realised he was just really nice and really friendly. Actually I’ve found all the people that he works with are like that, the atmosphere is always so lovely.
What will happen to the portraits after the exhibition?
They’re touring with the show to Australia, Paris and Munich but Jean Paul has expressed a desire to buy them after which I’m delighted about.