on the river Le Renaison, Riorges, France
5 tetrahedons, 2.60 x 2.60 x 2.60 m each
gift ribbon and bamboo
French artist Edith Meusnier creates colourful installations through the ancient techniques of plaiting and sprang. Her colossal art pieces are mainly exhibited outdoors where her work simultaneously sits comfortably within while also standing out from the environment.
Where did you learn about textiles?
I developed an early and passionate interest for the contemporary interpretation of primitive plaiting that I learned in books. It was like a wonderful worldwide journey through time, and space. Later, I completed this self taught research with an advanced study in “l’Ecole Nationale Superieure de Création Industrielle, Paris”, in Textile Design, but my artistic approach essentially depends on the plaiting I do.
How do you describe your work?
Light, transparent, colorful, convertible, serial and ephemeral.
I have been working on the borderline between textile art and art in situ, I choose very trivial materials, I craft them with primitive textile techniques to produce simple geometric shapes, then I install these flexible structures in different urban or rural areas.
Playing with opposites, natural-artificial, continuity-brittleness, fragile-solid these parenthesis underline the tensions between realities and fictions of a selected landscape.
What technique do you use?
I use plaiting and most often “sprang”. I enjoy this magical technique dating of bronze age and I am still wondered by its simplicity, and its infinite possibilities.
Where are you based and do you work in a studio?
I live in a small village in a clearing of the forest not too far from Paris in France. Of course I have places to stock my material but I don’t need a studio. As often as I can, I work outside, in my garden, in the forest or on the spot of the installation. In the wintertime, I work in front of the fireplace.
Can you describe how you make a piece?
First, I walk a long time around the place of the future installation. I look at different elements of the landscape, like trees, river, hills, buildings… I come back in different hours of the day to take wind and different lights into account. I meet with people, we talk about surroundings and we compare our viewpoints … I choose a specific site, I take pictures and later I think about colours, dimensions and shapes to do a module that I repeat in a new series.
It seems very logical, but sometimes I have to change everything at the last moment because the place has changed meanwhile, sometimes due to the bad weather …
It is hard to answer but how long does one installation take?
There are no hard and fast rules. I play with time and I like to take a lot of time to do ephemeral works. My work is seasonal. Often, I plait in winter, I shape my net in spring, I install them on the spot in summer and I recycle them in autumn. Most of the time, I go and see the location before beginning a new project, except in the case of an artistic residency, that forces me to step up the pace.
Sometimes I work about six months and the installation is completed just in few hours with the help of tree-pruners, other times I grope and I change my mind for a long time before finding the right way to hanging or plant my structures.
What is it about nature that makes you want to display your work in nature?
Working outside is at each time both a perpetual challenge and a new experience for all my senses. My work is never frozen, it dances with the wind, nearly disappears under the sun, and reflects itself upon the water. I try to set up a dialogue with the scenery, and as my work is transparent, it becomes part of the site and changes with it through the seasons.
I work with specific details of landscapes which have been shaped and transformed by man over centuries and I take great interest in this story. I set my nets and I wait for what happens over times, what are the reaction of elements and of course of bystanders.
You use plastic ribbon in beautiful colours, is this because of it’s durability?
Most often, I use gift wrap ribbon, of course because I am particularly aware of its symbol of present and festive events.
I like its hues, its lightness, its fluidity and its weather resistance. I frequently add stainless steel wires to get higher flexibility and durability. When I need to frame the nets, I use bamboo or plastic tubes.
I think it is never anodyne to enter in public spaces and if I use synthetic materials, I emphasis each time about the harmless, aerial and temporary aspect of my landscaping interventions.
How long do your installations stay in place?
Usually, about five or six months, sometimes two or three years. For “Sortilege” I was invited by the La Ferté-Bernard municipality to create a huge Installation for the Festival “ARTEC” around the theme “Water and Fire”. It stayed upon the river and in some places of the town during the May 2010.
What is your career highlight so far?
It is not really a career highlight but an important turning point in my career. In spring 2016, I was very happy to create a large installation in Belgrade’s Museum. For the first time in over 20 years I exhibited my work indoors. The building was really fantastic, with an heavy burden of recent history and I have tried to give it a lively and playful appearance. It was a very exciting experience that changed my look and since then I am ready to alternate between inside and outside installations.
Do you have any advice for aspiring textile artists?
I can only share my experience. Besides my individual work, I have always led collective workshops with different people, children, adults, old people, in different places and contexts like schools, hospitals or art-therapy units…It was not only complementary but also rewarding and I have learnt a lot. In addition, for a long time, it allowed me to earn a living, the result of which was that I gained complete freedom in order to find my own artistic process.