Cédric Rivrain (b. 1977, Limoges) is a french artist who lives and works in Paris. He began drawing at the age of 18, and started his career working as an illustrator for publications such as Dazed & Confused, Vogue, etc., and in fashion studios as a designer and illustrator, notably for Martine Sitbon, Hermès and John Galliano for Dior. He developed his meticulously refined hand, which became his signature style.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally and when did art first enter your life?
I was born in France, in Limoges. I grew up in a small village in the Massif Central, then in Loire-Atlantique. As a child, I was fascinated by the anatomical illustrations that my father, a doctor, displayed in his office and on the walls of the house. Very early on, I used my mother’s make-up products for my drawings. My practice has developed from this: to understand the anatomy with rigor and to transcribe the nuances of being through materials and colors.
Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies?
In my teen years, painting naturally became my medium of choice. Since then, my style has developed a lot, of course. I experimented both on the narration and the technique. Figuration has nevertheless always been at the heart of my practice, with a particular taste for portraiture.
What’s a day in the studio like for you?
I get up very early and, as my studio is linked to my apartment, I am with my paintings as soon as I wake up. I observe them in the dark, until the sun rises and floods the studio. I then absorb myself in painting, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for the whole day.
What’s next for you?
There are fairs and group exhibitions to come, including one in a French institution, and a solo in 2024, but, in general, I do not project myself. I focus on painting, day to day, and I trust the exhibitors to find the right context for my works.
From where do you draw inspiration?
From two distinct horizons that often come together in my paintings: my friends on one hand, my artistic references on the other. Most of my work weaves a link between people I love and pre-existing works that inspire me, or the reverse. It is a very intimate process.
Have you always painted in the style your work currently inhabits?
It is an evolving process, a permanent search. I allow myself to experiment, to make mistakes, but when I don’t find myself in a gesture, in a form, I don’t hesitate to start all over again. Although each painting is approached differently, I believe that all of my paintings are linked by a common gaze, a mixture of precision and vagueness. I explore a wide variety of subjects (still lifes, nudes and portraits of artist friends, scenes inspired by my diurnal or nocturnal wanderings) seeking to establish a silent dialogue between them so that they form a fuzzy, mobile community.
What source material do you base your work off of?
As a portrait painter, I work with models, who are usually friends, often artists themselves, almost always queer. I don’t have them pose live and I don’t reproduce a photo either. The figuration is born from a permanent dialogue between the being and the image. I work from my memory, from my memory of them, which allows me to convey a more sincere emotion and even, on an anatomical level, to play with proportions to find the right balance in the painting.
Does your work reference any Art Historical movements?
I am constantly nourished by the history of art. Some references are more readable than others, but my interest is always to establish a dialogue between the different levels and the different periods of representation. I try to situate my subjects at the interstice of pictorial canons, contemporary social developments and my intimate journeys.
What is your process like? How do you begin a work?
The process is primarily cerebral. I think a lot about a painting before starting it, less in terms of composition than intention, accuracy. I always start from the idea. I never do preparatory sketches. I like to feel free in front of my canvas, detached from any other visual, which would seem to me instantly parasitic. I prefer pristine white walls and a blank canvas to bring my paintings to life.
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?
Paul P. and Scott Treleaven. I met the couple a long time ago. Both of them already had a very strong personal practice. Their respective works, the distinctive ways they each invest the queer immediately touched me.