London based Dutch artist Anne von Freyburg is inspired by how beauty and femininity are defined by historical and contemporary culture. Through her practice, she explores embellishment and how it has been suppressed within Modernism’s eloquence and not seen as an intellectual form of expression.
In her current body of work, Freyburg creates a refreshing take on the Rococo aesthetic. An artistic period that emerged in France and spread throughout Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Rococo focuses on attention to detail, ornamentation and the use of energetic colours.
I am particularly interested in how beauty and femininity are constructed through contemporary visual culture and within an art historical context.
Anne von Freyburg
Freyburg reimagines the historic decorative materially to subvert the female gaze, the feminine and the pretty, examining her subject matters in unique textile paintings that yields an exquisite appearance challenging embellishment and the underlying hierarchical system associated.
In this interview, we learn more about Freyburg’s inspiration, creative process and more.
Q: For those who don’t know you, can you please introduce yourself?
A: I am a Dutch artist living and working in South East London. Through my practice, I am rethinking textiles and the decorative within the tradition of painting. I am embracing and subverting the female gaze, the feminine and pretty.
The media in which I work are predominantly textiles and painting. In my recent work of deconstructed Rococo paintings, I mix fashion fabrics, tapestry and painting into wall objects. The work is as much concept-driven as it is process led. I am interested in blurring the boundaries between making and thinking, art and craft.
Q: What is your inspiration, and why do you do what you do?
A: My inspiration comes mainly from a reactionary place or something that captures my attention because it is amusing, problematic or embarrassing. Ideas can come from mainstream culture, music videos, art history, fashion, a Fellini movie, feminist literature, or a gallery visit. I am particularly interested in how beauty and femininity are constructed through contemporary visual culture and within an art historical context.
As much as I want to reclaim, celebrate, own and subvert the clichés of femininity, it can sometimes become a problematic stereotype that I want to question by creating work about it. Utilising the medium of textiles, which has a rich female historical background, and Rococo paintings as my reference because of their marginalised and feminine appearance, I investigate how gender stereotypes are constructed.
I am cynical about this so-called capitalization of femininity that feeds consumerism, beautification and the obsession with outer appearance and the fetishization of the body. Also, I am well aware that I am part of that culture. In that sense, my work has an aspect of self-policing in it as well.
Q: Can you tell us about your creative process?
A: With the post-Rococo pieces, I begin with manipulating photo reproductions of old masters paintings in photo-shop. I change the colour and surface of the original piece into a more contemporary colour pallet.
It is like painting with digital instruments on old masters reproductions. After that, I translate the prints into line drawings that I use as blueprints for the actual work painted on canvas. The prints of the digital manipulated paintings I use as a colour reference for my paintings. When the sketch is finished, I can start painting on raw canvas.
This is done relatively quickly and functions as an under-painting for me to build on various fabrics. After all the materials are glued onto the canvas, I take it home, where I stretch it on an embroidery frame and start stitching the pieces onto the canvas. In this phase, I can still decide to use machine or hand-embroidery effects. When this is finished, I add polyester wadding and use a hand quilting technique to create a puffy effect. Then I paint the fringes, which are the last element that I add to the frame and finish the piece.
Q: Your work has a running theme featuring textiles fused with fine Art with the underlying essence of the female gaze and feminine beauty. Can you tell us the motivation behind this?
A: Historically, craft and decoration have been perceived as lesser than the “intellectual” fine arts. Embellishment has been associated with the feminine, frivolous, and excessive and was thus repressed within the rhetoric of Modernism. Detailing and fabric were viewed as decorative extras.
By bringing textiles and fine art together I aim to challenge this underlying hierarchical system. Reconstructing old masters paintings out of various fabrics is my way of giving paintings a dialogue with textiles.
Choosing the Rococo period as my reference and building it up with embellished and kitschy materials is to lay the question of taste more thickly. Besides that, I’m repurposing fashion fabrics to point out the seductiveness and commercial aspect of clothes and the throwaway fashion culture that comes out of that. Reconstructing old masters’ paintings from glitzy materials and turning them into modern art could be perceived as an ironic gesture.
While the concept carries out some irony, the process of painting and fabricating historical paintings with swirly brushstrokes and intricate textile pieces is empowering for me.
Q: What was the first piece of Art you created that cemented your path as an artist?
A: In 2008 I made a series of photographic portraits printed on canvas that I machine sanded and repaired with needle and thread. That was the start of fusing different media and applying embroidery in my work. The subject of beautification was already there. These pieces gave me my first gallery show in the Netherlands.
Q: In your opinion, what is the lasting impact of Art, and what does Art mean to you?
A: Art has always been there and will always be part of our culture. History has proven that already. Art wears many faces, but in a good way, it hopefully stays critical towards itself, modern society and culture. Personally, work excites me when the subject has current relevance, and there’s a sense of visual and intellectual effort. Progressive art can challenge me as an artist, but it also gives me new insights into visual culture and life.
Q: What do you think about the current state of the art world?
A: Ah, the big bad art world… Of course, part of that world is driven by market value and then it becomes something that has nothing to do with art-making in my view. Unfortunately, the auctioned price of an artwork is more important than the artwork itself.
It is problematic and obnoxious. Having said that, there are so many galleries and curators who have a genuine interest in the artist and their work. Also, I think it is positive that the art world is becoming more inclusive and aware of groups of people that have been left out of the game for too long.
Q: What are your thoughts on NFT art, and will you create any digital edition of your work?
A: To be honest, I had to Google what NFTs exactly are. I heard galleries complaining about it on blogs, but actually for artists who produce digital art. It is a way to protect the work and having a platform to feature it. My textile pieces still need to be experienced physically because of the tactile and material aspect; otherwise, it misses their point.
Q: What’s next for you as an artist?
A: A group show is coming up about women in the arts that I am participating in, organized by Cynthia Corbett of Young Masters in South Kensington. In 2022 there will be a duo exhibition in The Netherlands at Galerie o-68 that I am looking forward to.