Muses, artist friends, favourite colours

Roger Clark: Muses – what are they and how do they influence an artist?

Lélia Pissarro: Muses are such an important factor in the life and work of an artist; they are an absolutely essential source of artistic inspiration and influence. A muse could be a man or a woman, alive or dead, perhaps from a story, perhaps from real life, but a muse must be a person, an evocative person who impinges directly and fundamentally upon an artist’s way of looking at the world. This, of course, is my personal interpretation of a muse.

Picasso, I think, used the notion of having muses to accommodate his sexuality, which is not at all what I am making reference to. There have been muses in my life about whose private life I knew very little, yet they remained a source of influence to me for years.

Roger Clark: Do your muses know the position they hold in your artistic life?

Lélia Pissarro: Yes, I tell them - those who are alive, obviously. But my practice is not to divulge the name of my muses, as it is a matter that is personal to me and also to them.

Their identity is irrelevant. However, it is important that they know, because there is a very strong link between the emotions which they generate and my work; my muses are like pores through which music, poetry, pieces of literature can be absorbed in me, fuse inside me, influence my work and be transmitted to the canvas.

Roger Clark: Do you find inspiration amongst your artist friends?

Lélia Pissarro: Among my contemporaries, Warren Leaddley and Teena Taylor are artists whose photographs, together with their individual approach to their work, provide me with a constant source of inspiration. Their photography, often dramatically and stylistically different, creates a stimulating context for me to explore, whether in artistic collaboration or in my appreciation of their work.

I find Lynsey Storer’s conversations constantly inspirational. These exchanges are always challenging and inevitably awake in me a vivid curiosity about new artistic ideas and directions, thus facilitating new departures.

Some of my most influential art experiences have occurred with Dan Tranberg in New York. After wonderfully endless hours of discussion, our artistic expression goes beyond the prosaic practice of putting paint on canvas as it becomes a re-examination of all we do on a more cerebral intellectual level.

Arturo Di Stefano is a fantastic artist, whose discipline and devotion to his work have definitely acted as a trigger and influence in my attitude to work.

Luiz Da Rocha my “Maître à penser”, professor at les Beaux-Arts, artist, engraver, watercolorist, gouachist, mine d’argentist, is always here when I need guidance in every discipline, to teach me, remind me of everything I should have learned at the Beaux-Arts. Every time I doubt myself he always puts me back on the right track.

I have met a considerable number of artists in my life; over the past twenty years. The only one I have consistently and regularly enjoyed painting with is my very dear friend Luce Geas.

Roger Clark: What are your favourite colours, and why?

Lélia Pissarro: White. It represents to me clarity and transparency. There is an endless possibility of white monochromatic subjects such as eggs, garlic, swan’s feathers, cotton balls, sugar cubes, snows subjects... anything white has always attracted me.

Black. Contrary to what some people presume, black is not a sad colour at all but a blissful one, filled with sensuality and emotions. It is the night sky, without which the stars would remain invisible; candlelight is more beautiful when set against black.