In the studio: Laure Prouvost, film and installation artist

'You have to be helped not to see the motorway next to the waterfall'

Karen Wright
Thursday 19 September 2013 22:05
Prouvost says: 'I wish it was more tidy, but sometimes it quite provokes something.'
Prouvost says: 'I wish it was more tidy, but sometimes it quite provokes something.'

Entering Laure Prouvost's studio in east London, which she has sub-let for the past five years, I am taken aback by its modesty of scale. Having won the prestigious Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2011, and been nominated for the Turner Prize this year, I had expected something grander.

Prouvost is about to give birth, (she has since had a daughter) and is hastening to complete her work for the Lyon Bienniale. Born in Lille, northern France, in 1978, she came to London at 18, she tells me in her charming accented English, punctuated frequently by her trilling laugh.

She came initially to study film at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design "and then I got stuck here, created friendships and relationships and people you love".

In the interim of almost 10 years between St Martins and Goldsmiths, where she completed a year of her two-year BA degree, she became a part-time assistant to artist John Latham, who she says is "more like my grandfather than my 'real' one", and who provides the focus of her installation referencing the German painter Kurt Schwitters, which will form the centrepiece of her Turner Prize exhibition.

The Lyon project will have to be installed without her, and her team of workers is milling around making final adjustments. They have constructed a quasi-womb-like cave filled with strange sculptures – a large paper cigar, a blond wig and a rickety wing chair from the 1970s. There will be a video component, she explains, but the final installation will be twice as big.

Prouvost's recent film Respirations, like much of her work, is "playing with the idea of translation that is the starting point of my work – how do you translate feeling into painting, or some words how they miscommunicate or can be misused". The theme is deceptively simple, she says. "Respirations is the most direct work that I have done. My mum likes it because it is about pleasure. Yet the work is still anxious."

Respirations is filmed deliberately in the style of a pastoral idyll, and includes scenes of herself bathing naked amid a group of young women, recreating seemingly effortlessly the atmosphere of early paintings. She recalls "how you have to be helped not to see the motorway next to the waterfall. It is all controlled".

The studio is filled with remnants of past works and potential materials for the future. On a shelf is a sculptural bread made by a master baker in the italian town of Biella, where the Pistoletto art foundation is based. "This one is broken, so I brought it back, but it is beautiful," Prouvost says. Nearby, a plastic squid lies splashed with realistic black dye, while a sign saying "Before the end" stands propped up on the desk.

Prouvost asks her assistant to "make me a video camera!" A superfluous box is found, black gaffer tape and a plastic drinking cup are located and a recognisable video camera is created to sit alongside the "flying jumper". Looking around the studio, Prouvost says: "I wish it was more tidy, but sometimes it quite provokes something."

Laure Prouvost's work will be shown at the Turner Prize 2013 exhibition in Derry-Londonderry as part of its UK City of Culture celebrations

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