Beyond the Spiral
Roger Clark


Family background
Born in July 1963, Lélia spent the first eleven years of her life in Clécy, a rural Calvados village, in the home of her grandparents, Paulémile Pissarro and his wife Yvonne. She grew up watching her grandfather paint; her own first paintings were done on pieces of cardboard box, imitating her grandfather’s brush strokes.

He tutored her and over the years she was to learn from him impressionist and post-impressionist techniques of painting.

Thanks to the patience and time Paulémile made available to teaching Lélia at such a young age, she was able, well before starting school, to recognize letters and appreciate the beauty of their individual shapes. Before she was four, Lélia had learned to read and write. Her tutelage with Paulémile trained her how to see, how to observe, more than just to look… he taught her the basics of perspective. As a result of such an early artistic formation under the attentive guidance of her grandfather, Lélia established a highly developed visual memory much in advance of her years.

The barque was a specially converted rowboat moored in the Orne river at the foot of the garden of Paulémile’s house in Clécy, upon which Lélia spent many formative hours at the elbow of her grandfather while he painted and taught her to study and observe nature, water, light and shade.

With her grandfather, no opportunity was lost to observe and study her surroundings. While accompanying Paulémile on countryside walks in and around Clécy, Lélia learned to appreciate and observe nature in very close and precise detail. She and her grandfather even studied the wild grasses growing at the roadside (les graminées).

Lainville: 1974
Upon the death of her grandfather Paulémile in 1972 when she was nine, Lélia spent two further years in Clécy with her grandmother, after which she was taken to live under her parents’ roof. Here at the huge estate of Lainville she experienced the joy of reunification with brothers Lionel and Joachim after eleven years of upbringing as a solo child with her grandparents. However, she found herself subjected to an even stricter regime of personal life with her parents than had been the case in her grandmother’s care.

For the first time Lélia experienced life within a community of artists, “La Communauté Artistique de Lainville.” Nightshift followed dayshift, relentlessly, where painting, drawing and etching continued twenty-four hours a day.The concept of weekends or holidays simply did not exist. Living first with her grandfather and then her father, Lélia was brought up to think visually, to such an extent that it became the normality, the only way to think and has remained so ever since.

Favières: 1977
One summer in the tiny village of Favières Lélia, then aged 14, took her first steps in producing abstract art. One of her works was selected for an exhibition in the Musée de la Jeune Peinture; but on the occasion of the award ceremony Lélia found herself unable to attend and receive her prize because exhibited works were meant to have been selected only from artists aged over 21.

Athis: 1984
During her studies in les Beaux-Arts, Lélia felt strongly that the prevailing notions of “conceptual art” and “support surface” were being taught and enforced at the expense of more formal and assiduous teaching of technique and anatomical detail. Upon leaving les Beaux-Arts, therefore, and while still living in Paris, Lélia made regular trips to Athis where her father was working in order to join small groups of his students in intensive month-long all-day sessions of rigorous classical impressionist technique. Lélia had to submit to acceptance and appreciation of a strictly disciplined approach to the study and practice of art under the firm tutelage of her father Hugues-Claude.

Legacy of Paulémile and Hugues-Claude
Paulémile was responsible for Lélia’’s initial appreciation and love of art, her introduction to impressionist and post-impressionist techniques and the formation of a strong visual memory.

Her father Hugues-Claude has been responsible for developing in Lélia a more rigorous and disciplined approach to her wholehearted commitment to her art. Lélia was obliged by her father, as an artistic discipline, to draw and paint many times over goose eggs and feathers. He insisted that she spend one hour each day painting and drawing before allowing her to start her homework.
Her father is also responsible for Lélia’s strict work ethic and preoccupation with tidiness – she is by nature and by training punctilious about keeping her studio and materials well ordered, brushes clean, canvases carefully stored. As with everything she does, she brings a strong sense of organisation and structure to her work and workplace. Lélia sees herself as completely dedicated to her work – more than a way of life, her work is a religion. She cannot stay away from working – even when she is ill she keeps a sketchpad by her bed.

Lélia learned from both grandfather and father that an artist is considered as marginal to society. She learnt to accept the fact that most people who are not artists, see her as marginal because she lives and functions outside their parameters of normality– she keeps no fixed times, observes no weekends, has no fixed hours of work. For Lélia every day is a working day. Even while travelling she takes a minimum working survival kit: watercolours, sketchpads, notebooks, pencils and brushes.

It took Lélia many years before she felt ready to step away from the formal landscape painting tradition with which she had been imbued since infancy, a tradition to which she had remained faithful for most of her life.

“My dream.
As a child when looking at my father, my grandfather, my uncle Yvon and my auntie Laura drawing whatever they desired with ease and success, I made the wish to become like them; It became my goal, my secret dream.
On asking them, ‘What should I do to be like you?’ they all answered the same thing:‘Draw every day,draw non-stop, never let a day pass without drawing and one day it will come without you noticing it.’
This goal never left me. In my twenties and thirties I always thought about it, I drew and painted every day, and either by magic or hard work, I reached my goal, without even realising it at first. It was far from being as glamorous or as wonderful as one might imagine.
Little by little, painting lost its sacred aura.The feeling of malaise within me gradually swelled to one of repulsion. Everything I was painting had become easy, and I eventually realised it was no longer pleasurable. I needed to find fresh inspiration, but I had no idea where. It was a very difficult time for me, when I knew I didn’t want to carry on painting as I had done for years, but I had no idea what to do…… the syndrome of the white canvas… Thanks to Dotahn and the circles, I moved on… eventually.”