Agathe Bouton is a French artist , working mainly in various forms of engraving, but also in painting and collage. She has lived in 7 different countries and these experiences have led her to “reinterpret (her)self with (her) art and find new techniques and inspiration”. She has won many awards for her work, breaking the boundaries of traditional engraving and which is included in the permanent collection of the National Library of Paris.
She is now inspired by the architecture of Philadelphia and will present her series in a second solo show “Reflections and Light” at the 3rd Street Gallery of Philadelphia this month of November. You can also check out her process on this video in her studio! thanks Agathe for having us behind the scenes!
Tell us a little bit about how you got into art. What was your path?
I was born in a family of artists in the Paris area, and very early on, I knew I would do something with my hands. Something artistic. My father, painter, gave me a small place in his studio and took me willingly to work with him. My path is traced. After a success application, I integrated the School of Applied Arts Duperré in Paris. The training was generalist. I did everything: painting, engraving, photography, ceramics … I got a first degree in fine arts (BFA Painting and Printmaking) and then a MFA in Art and Textile Design.
How would you describe your artistic approach?
I express my creativity in various forms, but in recent years I have settled on engraving as the best form of expression for me. My approach to this traditional technique, however, is an unusual one – my work tends to be more colorful and pictorial, and less graphic, than traditional engraving. I take a painter’s approach to engraving – I explore the plate and its multiple potential variations both chromatic and graphic.
You’ve traveled and have lived in many countries. How did these life experiences influence your work?
Since I left Paris 13 years ago, I have lived in London (UK), Rangoon (Burma), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Dakar (Senegal), and Istanbul (Turkey), before settling in the US. My work is inspired and fed by all the experiences and the cultures I have discovered during my travels. Each time I had to reinterpret myself with my art and find new techniques and inspiration – which was challenging but so worthwhile as it helped me to grow in confidence and build a solid and versatile portfolio.
You approach engraving in a modern way. Can you describe how you manage to modernize this traditional tool?
My engraving work breaks the boundaries of the traditional medium of engraving and etching. With one plate, instead of creating a series of reproductions, I let emotion transform the print each time it passes under the press, which I do several times. I use various techniques of removing the ink from the plate, of using the rollers, of printing on different paper, and even creating collages. Therefore, each print varies from the one before, with a different composition and atmosphere.
Who are your favorite artists or influencers?I spent my childhood in museums and various exhibitions but if I had to name only two artists it would be Nicolas de Staël for painting and Rembrandt for engraving with its magnificent etchings, which move me particularly.
How do you get inspired for your new creations?
Since I moved to Philadelphia, I have been inspired by the urbanism I see around me. My latest series of work was mostly inspired by architecture, including abandoned warehouses – this series focuses on the details of these grand facades, with their patchworks of broken windows. I’m drawn to the intrinsic beauty of these buildings – archiving the color palette into an evocation of the original inspiration. As the curator Leeza Ahmady has noted, in this way I “appropriate loss, decay, and deterioration as an essential physical aspect of the world, and transmute or recycle it back into order, serenity and beauty.” These prints are monotypes, with the colors appearing in different shades, densities, and half tones.
Do you have an anecdote that you’d like to share?
There are several, but I will remember the fairly recent phone call received a few months ago from a perfect stranger who had seen my work by chance on the internet and since then bought me 2 works. I really like these winks from above that make you feel the importance of your work, it is very encouraging and of course also very flattering.
What is your dream project?
I already live my dream: having this freedom to create, the chance to travel the world and the ability to communicate my art across borders. In the future I would like to integrate an artist’s residency, to grasp the 3-dimensional engraving and to make my work evolve towards a monumental dimension.
What are your projects for the coming months / year?
Knowing that I’m going to be on the American territory for a while, I want to deepen this series inspired by the urban architecture of Philadelphia. I have a second solo exhibition of this series this month of November at the 3rd Street Gallery of Philadelphia.
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