Anouk Mercier: Hinting at the Mysterious, the Abysmal and the Uncanny

Our volunteer journalist, Auguste Chocianaite met Anouk Mercier in her studio.

Enchanting landscapes embellished with subtle motifs of the Antiquity period combined with the most outstanding creations of nature, all produced using ink or pencil, are signature works of Anouk Mercier. “When I first moved to the UK and couldn’t speak English I learned the power of drawing, and Art generally, as a universal language.” Anouk has been creating poetry through her drawings ever since.

When did you find out that expressing yourself on paper was your calling in life?

“I was born in Paris in 1984, moved to Switzerland when I was five, and again to England when I was nine. Drawing and reading were always my favourite activities as a child, perhaps partly because I grew up without a TV at home. Drawing was and still is so many things to me; a form of entertainment, escapism, relaxation and expression.”

Anouk Mercier Temple-Silently-Overlooking-The-Fall

Motifs of mountains, waterfalls, and abandoned cities dominate your artwork. What is your relationship with nature itself?

“Nature has always been a very big part of my life. Growing up in Switzerland I spent a lot of time in the Alps, where I was taught both to wonder at, but also fear and respect the mountains. This dichotomy of awe and terror, beauty and doom is a recurring theme and subject of exploration throughout my practice. It also prompted my love and fascination for Romantic Art and the Sublime, both of which significantly inform my practice.”

Architectural themes from the Antiquity period, Ancient Greece in particular, are undeniably visible in your drawings. Why is that so? 

“Over the past year I have been particularly interested in art collected during and influenced by the Grand Tour. It was the traditional trip to Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class young men and intellectuals/ artists from around 1660 until the middle of the 19th Century. Ruins naturally crept in to artworks created and collected along the course of these journeys, and therefore became a classic theme of Romantic Art. With this in mind I undertook a trip to Greece last year in the footsteps of the Romantics. This, together with Piranesi’s etchings of Roman antiquities, has inspired my recent work.”

Anouk Mercier 1

Why did you choose the particular technique you use to create your drawings? How is Photoshop involved in the creative process?

“I only use Photoshop when preparing my photo etching plates. Otherwise I use a range of techniques throughout my practice but the majority of my current work is created using acetone printing, airbrushed inks and pencil on paper. It is a multi-layered and often laborious process, and each stage is more or less predictable. I didn’t choose this technique as such; it evolved naturally over time as my own unique visual language, developed to best convey and present concepts and notions inherent to my work.”

Could you please briefly tell me about the whole process of making a new piece? 

“My practice begins in collecting images, and the creation of my artworks always starts at the point of selecting images form my collection; whether for a graphite-only drawing, photo etching or acetone transfer and airbrush piece. My process for the latter involves making multiple photocopies of a selection of existing Romantic landscape prints or paintings, fragments of which are then carefully re-printed onto paper using acetone transfer. I then delicately apply colour to the skies using airbrushed inks, building a base on which to embellish with my own delicate mark-making.”

Anouk Mercier Cascade-du-Lac-Noir

Do the transformative bubble fragments used in the majority of your paintings have a specific meaning?

“They serve as a subtle hint to the viewer that the idealised scenes depicted in my work are only an illusion; hinting at the mysterious, the abysmal and the uncanny that often lurks behind idylls. They suggest an unravelling, and introduce an ominous and potentially futuristic element to my work, confusing any real sense of place and time.”

How would you describe your own art? What do you want the viewers to feel?  

“My work presents melancholic scenes and landscapes that are undefined by time or space, and that merge references to the past with futuristic propositions. They echo a timeless yearning for escapism through the portrayal of a beautiful ideal. I suppose I want viewers to be drawn in by the idyllic visual references, whilst not being able to shake off a slight feeling of unease.”

Where does your inspiration lurk most of the time?

“Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, which is why I always feel that a big part of being an artist is being curious and inquisitive. Generally speaking I tend to be drawn to places and objects that are either beautiful, uncanny or both, which covers a very broad spectrum. I spend a lot of time on country walks and visiting stately homes. Nature, architecture and art all inspire me.”

Anouk’s work ‘Route des Lindrets – Une Cascade’, which took her one year to finish, has been recently short-listed for Jerwood Drawing Prize. Celebrating idealised representations of nature, the artist again unveils the beauty of nature on the verge between reality and ultimate graphic fantasy.

Anouk Mercier 2

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About jamaicastreetartists

Jamaica Street Artists is one of the largest artist-lead studios outside of London and has been established for over 15 years. The studio is housed in a grade ii listed former carriageworks, an iconic landmark in Bristol. Jamaica Street Artists is a unique and ambitious collective, holding an annual Open Studio and planning an exciting programme for the year ahead. In the past we have held group exhibitions at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery and St George's, Bristol, and individual artists continue to find success exhibiting across the UK and abroad. Over the past year Jamaica Street Artists has run a dynamic fundraising campaign to safeguard our future, a new lease has now been secured, but the long-term aim remains to purchase the building in partnership. Looking towards the future Jamaica Street Artists plan to build on their success, continuing to contribute to Bristol's creative and cultural reputation and promoting the work of its artists.

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