Iris Garagnoux explores the human species via art

By Alex Moore

4 minute read

Parisian artist Iris Garagnoux is at the heart of a distinct scene.

Based in Bermondsey, London, her contemporaries include a burgeoning group of young mix-media creatives. Referencing contemporary female artists such as Eva Hesse, Rebecca Horn, Donna Huanca, Joan Jonas and Anne Imhof, the 26-year-old effortlessly transitions from painting to sculpture to performance – each medium seemingly a continuation of the last. 

Conceptually, her work teeters on psychoanalytical, juxtaposed with Garagnoux’s fresh, almost innocent approach. She takes the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari – Un corps sans organe (A body without organs) – and uses it to critique organisations as we know them today: corporate, technological, and largely duplicitous. 

One for art and philosophy lovers alike, here we unpick the complexities that inspire Garagnoux’s work. 

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Top and above: Iris Garagnoux at her studio in Bermondsey; photography by Maria Estabanell

Tell us about your body of work.

The human body is always the starting point. My fascination began when I started practising gymnastics as a teenager, and I’ve always believed that I feel my body differently to how most people do. My work is really influenced by those kinds of graceful acrobatic movements. I imagine my paintings and my installations as choreographic sequences through which I seek to capture physical energy.

When I paint, I try to create a repertoire of gestures that will translate into 3D when I begin the corresponding sculpture. I’ll also incorporate those same gestures into my performances. Everything is dictated by those initial gestures. The painting might come first, but I’m conscious of the whole sequence. 

I haven’t read all of Capitalism and Schizophrenia [the seminal text by Deleuze and Guattari], but there were certain notions that really interested me and I’ve borrowed for my work. They’re more a criticism of organisation and organisations in general, I guess. I never try to represent actual images, rather I try to imagine ideas without structure. 

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Iris Garagnoux, Cytoplasm State 1, 2019

How does your work examine these notions?

My intention is to understand, transcribe and interpret the evolution of the human species, the world that we do not see, and that we forget. For example, the impalpable and uncontrollable flows of Big Data or 5G. They govern our lives. They allow us to process and digest information quickly and efficiently, but meanwhile they make us forget our deep self, our primitive human instincts, which is a form of physical intelligence that begs to be further explored. We have to stay connected to nature and to living things. In my paintings, I try to separate myself and to disregard this flow of images by presenting microscopic observations that become abstract, through a gesture, an energy, an inscription of my body on a canvas.

Tell us about Cytoplasm State 1 and Cytoplasm State 3, two works available at Lymited.

They’re inspired by my observations under a microscope. Extreme magnifications of skin, nails, hair, etc. I call them cytoplasm because you can see the liquids inside the cells. There is constant movement – the ebb and flow of materials. I consider the canvas a membrane and the paint is the cytoplasm. I don’t really associate one painting with one observation or one specific material, it is a more general observation, and then my body does the rest. I am very spontaneous. I always paint on the floor, putting all my weight and energy through the canvas.

Have you created a sculpture or performance to go with the Cytoplasm paintings?

Yes, I’ve created a series of sculptures or installations called Colloids, which I’ve exhibited. I haven’t made a performance of those two paintings yet, but I am currently working on something digital. The Colloids represent the state in between – it is all related. Even for me to describe my work as paintings, sculptures, performance, feels so restrictive. It is all in constant movement. I suppose they’re like fragments of a bigger vision, attempting to show that an organism is never fixed but merely reacting to its environment.

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"I always paint on the floor, putting all my weight and energy through the canvas," Garagnoux says of her creative process; photography by Maria Estabanell

Where did you learn your craft?

After an art foundation year at Atelier de Sèvres in Paris, I got a BA in Fine Art at Institut Supérieur des Arts de Toulouse (ISDAT) in 2019. I collaborated with Point Contemporain magazine and exhibited in Toulouse and Paris. Then in 2020, I obtained a Master’s in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) in London, while attending Art History classes at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. I decided to continue my studies in London because I believe the city provides one of the most dynamic artistic platforms in the world. It encourages emerging artists to break through, unlike the unshakeable hierarchy in France. 

What else are you working on? 

At the moment I’m working with Xuan Liu (sound/installation) and Maria Estabanell (photography/moving images) on an exhibition project that would offer a visual and sonic experience, focusing on essentialist considerations of our body. We seek to investigate the possibilities of the human frame, its movements and plasticity throughout different media, inviting viewers to reconnect with human relationships. I would say it is the sense of touch that brings together our practices, whether it is haptic, dermal, thermal or acoustic. Together we want to explore the echoes of the present and the then. 

And of course I’m looking forward to galleries reopening. All being well, I’ll be exhibiting in Shanghai later this year.

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