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published on 19.08.2021

Geneviève Levivier - The object becomes.

A conversation with Geneviève Levivier, textile designer, and Alexandre Humbert, director and Giovanna Massoni, curator.

Through an alchemical work mixing sustainable fibers and organic materials, painting, handmade and digital processes, evidence by her laboratory-like studio, she imagines translucent tapestries and luminescent panels echoing the aesthetics of nature in its wild and poetic aspect.

What is light?
I think light is life. It's really an important matter, for the energy it gives you. I'm working with different approaches to light: how natural light can interact with my works, with textiles, with translucence, with colouration, with the brightness of the colouration and also the luminescence, the colour of the pigments with which I work a lot at the moment. Light is definitely a central issue in life and in my work.

What does night mean?
Night is a different reality. It's a kind of strange approach: it can be the moment of dreams or the moment of fear. I’ve always really liked to work at night because I have more energy. And due to my current research on luminescence, I mainly have to work at night, because you don't see exactly what you do until night and darkness arrive. A lot of creators are used to saying: when you do nothing, you do a lot. When I'm walking or when I'm just having a rest, I take in energy and get ideas, and generate some creative connections.

How did your actual practice start?
I began in the fashion industry, and I was very happy since I was working with the best of it. It was challenging. After eight years, I was very tired and had the feeling that I wasn’t being recognized for the quality of my work. I decided it was time to take a new turn in my work and my life, and it was a big decision. It took me almost two years to find my new way to fully express myself, not always working within strict guidelines like in haute-couture: What would they like? What do they need or expect from me?    

And how will it be in ten years?
I'll still be in my atelier, which is a perfect place to work. But I would like to be able to travel more, be part of international residency programmes, have the possibility to explore other cultures and integrate them into my work, meet and exchange with people. And my atelier, which until now has been the centre of my working activity, will be more of a centre to spread out my work and create connections.  

Would you consider chemistry as a design practice?
Certainly. I work with a researcher in chemistry, my husband and my associate. It's a very creative field, for sure when it's combined with craftsmanship. Design requires a lot of research and development that allows you to achieve new products and ways of experimenting.

What about the work you show in the movie?
It doesn’t deal with my own introspection; it's made for the user. I intended to create a functional piece in the way it offers people an immersive experience of well-being. It's a Secret Garden: outside the surface is very essential. When you go inside, I want to offer people a real moment of meditation, of contemplation, a quiet place. Inside, is more like an artwork: there are flowers, luminescence, there are a lot of things happening.

The common ground between your art and design practices is textiles. But in your case, it’s much more than weaving and creating tapestries: you’re definitely creating new materials…   
There is fibre and a lot of organic materials, a lot of colour. Then there are a lot of techniques: laser, digital coding… Sometimes I mix one, two, or more techniques that I've developed myself. I'm really convinced, as a musician that has to practice, that your own skills make your work. So, my materials make my work. I really like to do research and development, not only in a challenging, intellectual way, but also because I don't like to repeat myself all the time and I think that the pleasure of creation, which for me is feeling alive in the atelier, is really to always surprise myself.

What about the notion of patience in your practice and in the design process?
Research & development takes time, and in my case, it never stops. For this piece, it took me weeks to create this kind of digital pattern that would work on the 3D round form, compatible with laser micro-perforation, that would go together with the painting…