At the request of the Pierre Frey design studio, the artist and draughtsman Louis Barthélemy has imagined a genuine contemporary fresco celebrating the Nile and the abundant life that exists along the river.
Dividing his time between Cairo and Paris, this un conditional lover of Egypt shares with us his inspirations and his creative process.
You are an unconditional fan of Egypt, how did the connection with this country take place?
I discovered Egypt five years ago during a tourist trip initially planned for two weeks. I made an exceptional encounter that kept me there and the two weeks extended into a month, then a few years... I then met craftsmen and was amazed by their work. Egypt is an enchanting and fascinating country that never ceases to amaze me. I also love to get lost in Cairo which is a huge city. I love to wander around and let myself be carried away by the frenzy of the city. In a way, I feel a bit at home here.
Is Egypt your only source of inspiration? Does your French culture influence you in your creative process?
I love the duality between East and West, Egypt and Paris.
Paris is a city where I have my friends, clients. It is my culture, it calms me. I also have references, landmarks that inspire me and allow me to move forward. But sometimes, to create, I need disorder. The institutional order which can be light in France, suffocates me and ultimately I love to escape into the chaos of Cairo and Egypt. There is also something very liberating that comes from the fact that, not knowing anyone, left to myself, I am more open to encounters, to otherness, to discovery. Elsewhere allowed me to find myself, to leave my comfort zone, to express a more singular language less influenced by the universe in which I lived in Paris.
How did you collaborate with the Pierre Frey team?
When I met the Pierre Frey studio, the idea was to develop a story around Egypt. I immersed myself in research, old books, visits to museums and antique collections. I wanted to retranscribe the vitality of the frescoes of the time but in a contemporary and almost pop way. It was an original and exclusive creation. When I started drawing for Pierre Frey, I was in Egypt in a Berber oasis on the borders of Libya. Surrounded by palm trees and impressive vegetation, I was able to indulge in a kind of contemplation of nature that certainly influenced me a lot in the elaboration of my drawings.
The initial design for Pierre Frey was FAUNE ET FLORE that the studio developed in wallpaper and embroidered fabric. The designers suggested that I draw a second motif inspired by the lower part of the panoramic, zigzags representing the Nile. I found this graphic timeless and very modern and we developed a wallpaper on which we discover geometric waves in which water lilies and fishes evolve in acidulous colors.
What symbolism did you represent in your drawings for Pierre Frey?
Through my drawings for Pierre Frey I wanted to celebrate the Nile, a vector of water, a source of energy and a nourishing river since the dawn of time. I wanted to transcribe, in my own way, the movement, the vitality, the abundant life that exists along the river, on the banks and in the water.
How do you work? What are your favorite tools to create your drawings? Do you have a preference between digital tools and traditional drawing tools?
I work in an itinerant way. Everything starts with a phase of documentation, research, conceptualization. I like to gather various visual references in order to feed myself. The drawing is always the starting point of the project. First with a pencil or black felt pen on a white sheet of paper, I create the outline of what will become a wallpaper or a fabric. Then, I finalize the drawing on the computer in order to adapt it to the current means of production and to preserve its quality once it is considerably enlarged and printed on several meters.
The hand work, essential, transcribes, in a pure way, the essence of creativity. The technology accompanies us to achieve a project and to market it in its best form. In my opinion, the two exercises are inseparable from each other.
Are the colors of the fabrics, wallpapers and the panoramic the ones you originally created?
The colors used in the collection are a selection of those that I had initially made for the design studio. Beyond the drawing and the graphic work that the composition requires, I consider the colorization as a very important step. The colors translate an emotion and create radically different atmospheres whatever the basis of the drawing. I always propose several suggestions of colors, nocturnal, joyful, delicate... But for the final choice, I left free will to the Pierre Frey studio which has a more global vision of the collection and the whole project.
How did you feel when you first discovered your products?
When I handed over the designs to the Pierre Frey studio, I was able to follow the development from a distance, especially the embroidery, which seemed very complex. When I saw the finished product, I was amazed by the dexterity of the work and the final result.
But more than that, I love the panoramic wallpaper, the scale, the color combination and the joie de vivre that emanates from it. I have not seen any intermediate wallpaper samples. I had no idea through our photo exchanges, the framework of the paper, the iridescent almost metallic finish of the fabric. This interpretation is particularly interesting to me. It evokes the contemporary retranscription of a papyrus: a neo-papyrus!
Is there a message you wish to convey through your creations?
Through my creations, I wish above all to celebrate an intercultural dialogue. In my opinion, it is very important to be open to the other, to otherness, and not to turn in on oneself, on the idea of a static and fixed nation and identity. This is why ancient Egypt inspires me because it is an Egyptian heritage, an African heritage, but above all a universal heritage that belongs to us all. It is this idea of continuous reading that seems important to me today and that I try to transmit through my creations.