Multi-talented French artist and Berlin it girl Marie-Charlotte Nouza warmly invited indieberlin in her creative studio. The very same studio in which she comes up with a strikingly modern aesthetic for her paintings.
Portraits of friends, friends of friends, candid representations of bodies aging and a colorful Berlin youth bathing in freedom, Marie- Charlotte conveys a message of acceptance, spontaneity and liberty. Her brutally honest paintings of nudity and sexuality clatter with images of animals captured in the night and of her close entourage, as she never ceases to challenge her capacities as an artist and
Read her thoughts on her early Berlin life that gave her the inspiration and breath she needed, on her current artistic aspirations and let yourself be enchanted by Marie-Charlotte’s endearing mind.
Your works often look like photographs that were painted on, do you work with photography much ?
Yes, actually photography has a big influence on my paintings. I have a huge collection of photographies, mostly family albums from the 50’s to the 90’s that I bought in flea markets. I also have a lot of photos I took myself. I use all of them as inspirations or references. However I try to keep a certain distance with the photo I use as a model. My goal isn’t to exactly represent it but to give my interpretation.
Do you only paint people you know ?
I mostly paint people I know. It’s easier for me because I have a lot of photos of my friends when we party together or see each other. It’s also easier to make people you know pose for the purpose of a painting. I don’t only paint close friends, sometimes they are friends of friends and sometimes I paint strangers that I find interesting. And when I draw my inspiration from photographs, I don’t know the protagonists of the pictures either.
« I prefer representing people who identify as women because (…) I feel safe and free with women. I feel like it’s my community. That’s why I want to represent them because they are powerful and beautiful and our society doesn’t tell them enough »
When did you settle with this very recognizable aesthetic and artistic process ?
I think I really found myself when I quit art school. I was painting there too but in this particular place they would always ask you to explain each of your artistic choice and it avoided me to feel free or comfortable. I wasn’t doing what I wanted, I was trying to create something that would be easy to explain to the teacher.
And in the last year of my masters I had enough. I moved to Berlin and that’s when I really found my style. Being free with my work is what I’ve always wanted to be, I wanted to do things I wasn’t confident enough to do at school.
What draws your artistic eye to someone you want to paint ?
I like to paint people I don’t see everyday. Nowadays we see a lot of images with advertisement and I like to choose people who are and look different. For example people that are not obviously thin like most women are represented, I’m tired of this thin body image. I have nothing against it, I just think it’s interesting to represent something different.
Some people just naturally have something and most of the time, they can’t see that their beauty is special. So I try to show their beauty through my paintings. I also prefer to represent people who identify as women.
Why do you prefer representing people who identify as women ?
I’m just comfortable with women. I like to work with them. Strangely a lot of important people in my life are men. But I would say I feel more safe and free with women. I feel like it’s my community. That’s why I want to represent them because they are powerful and beautiful and our society doesn’t tell them enough.
Youth, sexuality and body aging seem to be recurring themes in your art, could you tell us a bit more about that ? Are there other strong and important messages you convey in your creation ?
Firstly, I’m very fascinated by humans and their bodies. We live in a society that’s all bout being young all the time and that’s not representative of the reality at all. We change, we age, we get sick and die at some point. It’s a part of who we are, as humans we are totally aware we are going to die. And the fact that we are trying to escape that, affects our choices and it affects what we allow the public to see of ourselves. Most people hate seeing the body of a naked old woman. As if it was something horrible when it’s not, it’s as natural as a young body.
Same thing with sexuality or fancy representations of sexuality. It’s always or often represented with toned, perfect, young bodies. I try to show things that are a reflection of reality, bodies that have qualities as visible as their flaws. Sex isn’t always beautiful, straight, white, young, it’s not always a performance that ends up with a penetration. It’s so much more. The way we perceive sexuality and the way it’s shown to us is still very cliché. That’s why I’m interested in representing new and unconventional sexual practices such as BDSM.
I worked a lot on this theme of bodies and sexuality so now I’m trying to change my focus. Right now I’m doing a series of works about platonic relationships, sisterhood and friendships. Mostly relationships between women but not only. I’m a bit tired of this idea that our lives revolve around finding love. I think friendships are very important and underrated. As an artist it’s also important to challenge yourself and as I painted so many people, I’m now trying to paint animals. It also makes me reflect on the impact human beings have on nature and animals and our views on them. When I was a child, we were almost certain that animals could not feel any pain, that they could not suffer. And luckily that mentality is evolving.
You mentioned moving to Berlin and finding freedom, could you tell us a bit more about how the city inspires you ?
I already knew the city from holiday trips. It’s a city that gives me this feeling of total freedom. In Berlin you can do and be whatever you want. People don’t ask much questions here such as: « Why are you like this », « Why are you painting this ». And coming from the south of France where you have this very strong pressure to fit in, both as a person and as an artist, it’s special to me.
I’ve been here for six years now and I met a lot of people from very different countries and cultures, it changed my opinions and view on so many social and political issues and me being here has, of course, a lot of influence in my work. If I din’t live in Berlin I probably wouldn’t talk about half the social issues I address in my art.
I meet a lot of female artists but it’s true that if you look at the art environment and business, you will mostly see men.
For example when I was in Les Beaux-Arts in Montpellier*, we were something like 35 students in the class and most of them were women. There approximatively was 20 to 25 women for 10 to 15 men. And for the last two years, they had to choose 10 students from the 35, and it ended up being 9 men for 1 woman. And that lack of parity and equality happens every year. Of course, the teachers themselves are mostly men, but I don’t think they do it consciously anymore.
As a woman, I think that in every field you have to prove more than a man. You have to work harder and surpass yourself. Some years ago, here in Berlin, a gallery owner wanted to represent me and he wanted to make sure I really wanted to pursue an artistic carrer, he told me: « You are young and you will probably marry someone and when that happens you will stop painting ». Men don’t have to deal with that.
Most of the time I’m alone in my studio so I don’t really deal with sexism but you have to wisely choose the people you work with. In this business, men mostly have power. When you look at the top 10 most famous or influential contemporary artists, there are no woman.
* An École des Beaux-Arts is one of a number of influential art schools in France. The school has a history spanning more than 350 years, training many of the great artists in Europe. Beaux Arts style was modeled on classical “antiquities”, preserving these idealized forms and passing the style on to future generations.
No, actually I was in trouble because I wasn’t feeling very good with him but he also was the owner of a very big gallery and I was at the beginning of my career. I ended up not giving him any news. But I also worked with male gallery owners that were very aware of the situation and supportive as well.
You talked about France’s lack of open-mindedness, do you think you would still be painting if you lived in France ?
I would still be painting because it’s one of the most important things in my life. And if I lived in France, a lot would actually be easier because where I come from there aren’t so many artists whereas here in Berlin everybody’s an artist, the competition is rough. So for some aspects, it would be easier. But on the other side, you have to deal with so much sexism, racism, homophobia that for artists living in France, it’s taking all of your energy away and it kills your creativity.
On your website there were three videos you directed, do you still film today ?
I don’t anymore but I do create installation sometimes, I however only do installations in collaboration with other artists. I have many video ideas and I truly love making them but I’m focusing on my painting at the moment.
If you were as pleased as we were to discover Marie-Charlotte, her beautiful creations and vibrant personality, make sure to remember she will be collaborating with photographer Julia Gröning at the Andreas Reinsch Project (Oranienpl. 1) from the 30th of April to the 11th of June. Don’t worry, it’s not over! You’ll also have the chance to admire her art at The Ballery for a very expected and well deserved solo show. The dates of the solo show aren’t decided yet, but stay tuned on The Ballery’s networks and ensure to follow Marie-Charlotte on Instagram and Facebook.