RIVIERA BUZZ BUZZ, our new concept introducing people and faces on the Riviera to you in a fun and informal setting with our own Mike Colquhoun.
In our ninth episode, Mike talks to fashion designer turned painter, Elizabeth Wessel
Sit back, relax and enjoy!
Abridged version of a conversation with Elizabeth Wessel; a fascinating chat about her work and her life.
Riviera Buzz – I’m with the delightful Elizabeth Wessel. Elizabeth, a terrific artist. Elizabeth will have an exhibition coming up on June 8th. Now Elizabeth, I want to know about what your journey was before you started painting. How did you begin?
Elizabeth – Well, I began as a little girl. My parents were traveling a lot, so I spent a lot of time in hotels and restaurants. And as they didn’t have Gameboys and all the electronic devices and toys at that time, they gave me a block of paper and some pencils, and that’s how I got started. So I’ve always been designing and drawing.
I went to boarding school in in Paris and I found a little fashion school next to the boarding school. So I truanted from my normal classes and I went to that little fashion school. When my parents saw that I was serious about it, they enrolled me into the biggest fashion school for haute couture. I was in haute couture spending my later years there where Yves St Laurent had been a student.
From there I started working in material and worked in fashion for many years in many places. I started my boutique in Paris when I came out of school. Afterwards, well, then men come into one’s life and I went to live in Colombia.
Riviera Buzz – Wow!
Elizabeth – Oh, yes. Wow1 So I had a lot of influences from the tropics, and that’s why I always do a lot of vegetation in my paintings when I do any background. Then I came back to Europe and back to Paris and ended up in Monaco, where my parents had a villa at the time.
That is where I met my second husband and I stayed in Monaco. And then I started, of course, fashion in Monaco and opened a big office and was exporting everywhere in the world. Little by little, as I’ve always been designing and drawing and painting, I started going over more to painting, and now I’m entirely only into painting.
Riviera Buzz – Do you only paint women?
Elizabeth – Yes, I do. Some men now and again. It’s my specialty – Women. Because I’ve made clothing for women over so many years. So I’m used to women so I don’t need a model or anything. It just comes out of my head.
I know women inside out. And as I said, I was, of course, painting but in a rather classical way. That’s to say that my paintings were flat in oil or in acrylic or in tempera. Little by little I thought, well, it’s a bit idiotic that I have excluded my love for textiles entirely. So then I started sewing textile into all my paintings, like the one that you can see behind me was a little skirt and silk.
My paintings were including my love for fashion and I’m painting. I saw that instead of only doing textiles, then why not take the canvas by canvas, which is not fixed. Not on an easel or on the wood and cut up the canvas, transfer it and paint on it. I like paintings with volume and I like to experiment.
Riviera Buzz – Its like a sculpture now?
Elizabeth – Exactly. Yes. It’s like a sculpture. Now that’s what I’m doing. And also paint ceilings. I paint what you see. Here I have a girl with the arms and the the arms stick out of the painting. So the the subjects are actually exploding out of the paintings!
Riviera Buzz – Your family comes from Denmark. Do you ever go back to Denmark?
Elizabeth – I go back, I try to go back, to Denmark once a year. I wasn’t brought up in Denmark. So I’m a mixture.
Riviera Buzz – Well, we know you have a South American connection.
Elizabeth – Yes. Chile. I have a lot of family in England and in America also. My family has been all over with my children everywhere.
Riviera Buzz – What happened to the villa in Monaco? I’m interested in that.
Elizabeth – The villa in Monaco was sold by my parents. (laughs) It was a mistake they should have kept. It would have been worth a fortune. It’s still there. It was bought by a German, he still has it.
Riviera Buzz – Why have you chosen Nice for this show?
Elizabeth – Because I think that Nice is more, I don’t know how one would say in English, it’s more true.. I found the gallery just by chance. I’m very, very happy to find it. I think it’s such a warm atmosphere there and that I felt at home. Aniko (the owner) is a wonderful person.
Riviera Buzz – Where do you draw your inspiration from for your paintings? Something must give you the urge to do a painting. Where does it come from?
Elizabeth – What lives around me. I like to look at people, what they do. Oh, I like to go out alone and just sit on a bench and look out over the sea and think..
Riviera Buzz – Do you sketch before you paint?
Elizabeth – Actually no. I prefer to go straight to painting. It’s more. It becomes more fluid when it’s drawn from scratch. Well, it’s perhaps more personal but (sketching) misses the spontaneity.
Riviera Buzz – What took you from fashion design into painting rather than keeping to fashion design? I think there’s only a few years ago that you changed over.
Elizabeth – Well, I changed about 4 to 5 years ago. Had to do with my husband’s illness also that I wasn’t available and things like that. So I didn’t feel that I could grow with my work life. Life did that. I changed.
I hope that you come and see my exhibition if you are in this part of the world.
Riviera Buzz – Well, we’ll see you in Nice at the vernissage!
Elizabeth’s website is – Elizabeth-Wessel.com
Vernissage – Gravis Art Gallery, 17 rue Droite, Nice – June 8th from 18h
Lead image courtesy Jason Dent on Unsplash; all other images courtesy and © Elizabeth Wessel