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Between a delicate femininity and an empowered female form: How Ines Longevial’s geometric faces rework womanhood.


By Louise Oliphant, Contemporary Art BA (Hons), International Journalism MA


Whilst an undoubtable influence for Labeca London, Ines Longevial’s delicately figurative portraits have also proven to cast a likeable effect on many. Amounting to an abundant 300,000 followers on Instagram and garnering brand collaborations with the likes of Nike, Fred Perry and Urban Outfitters, this Parisian born and based painter has developed a distinct artistic flair that audiences just can’t seem to ignore. From subtly eye-pleasing colour palettes, that just seem to flow paradoxically paired with contrasting harsh lines of geometric design, to expressionless and blank facial expressions that are somehow also emotive and sensual, Longevial’s ability to juxtapose a sensitivity of the female form with a structured arrangement of shape and composition, all the while evoking feeling and a personal sentiment is utterly captivating. How is it, that Longevial is able to construct an unnatural image in a way that feels entirely natural? How can abstract, orderly forms emit movement and fluent sensation? As such, geometrics, innate to the cubism movement are often stark, bold and surreal. Renown to artists such as Picasso, Braque and Dali, cubist artworks are non-figurative and non-representation by description, building a pictorial reality through line, shapes and geometric form.  


Ines Longevial’s sense to represent people, or women in a consistently readable way is thus a skill informed by more contemporary practices. As such, Longevial’s artworks are often injected with a romantic aesthetic, perhaps instilled through a childhood spent in ‘a little house on the prairie’, in the southwest of France where nature, flowers and charm accommodate the artists’ upbringing. In fact, memory here is conceivably what makes these artworks feel so personal. Where bodies, figures and faces are arranged in orderly parts, memories are adorned on the outside. The balance between facial features and geometric patterns are organised, as Longevial states ‘according to what’s natural enough to appeal to imagination, dreams and memories’. Although this naturality, as we may see, becomes paired with a recognition to women: ‘Nature and women are the "two things central to my life", Longevial confirms, “[They] give strength, but [they] must also be protected. These may be simple notions, but they bring [me] a pride and calm joy that I want to celebrate.” Oxymoronic as it may sound, the ‘naturality’ womanhood, depicted as powerful, yet vulnerable, celebratory yet gratified, is a wider reality of women’s problematic representation. Femininity, by an accustomed definition, constitutes delicateness and fragility, embodied by soft pinks and flower petals. Female, by comparison has taken a more empowered, feisty form, symbolised by bold feminist slogans and structured power suits. The difference between what women are, who they want to be and what is expected of them by society polarises ‘femininity’ and ‘female’ as reducible terms. Meeting or rather balancing these two divergent representations through stylistic, celebratory paintings is what transitions Longevial’s classic Picasso-esque paintings into the contemporary, almost popular domain. Classic in style, though contemporary in concept, Longevial’s work, purposefully reworks womanhood through a juxtaposition of both style and imagery. 


Ines Longevials most recent exhibition Before the Sun Sinks Low (2020) maintains this commitment to exploring the complexities of womanhood and does so most acutely. The collection celebrates the female form in the same abstract though representational way, whilst focusing on the nude. Take Extra Love & Tiny Hate (2020) for example. Not only does the work’s title offer both an acknowledgement of women’s self-love, self-hate relationship and a scale on which to balance it, but the symmetrical and almost patterned array of woman on woman that mirrors each figure only further premises a stability between standards placed on women by the mainstream and a more content reality. The women staring at each other, could be two distinct forms or either one homogenous woman split into the two dichotomies of womanhood. Again, this convergence of opposition that neutralises society’s versions of women, exists through the visual teaming of tenderness and strength. For example, symmetry, geometric form and shape in Extra Love & Tiny Hate (2020) is paired with a light application of paint and elusive colour choice that gracefully bounces light off the body and face. Sensual elements of the nude figure, namely shoulders, neck and back further meet through the touch of fingers, a delicate placing hands on others’ bare skin. So sensual, emotive and impassioned, you can almost feel the embodied form. Still, flat tints of strong red and pink oil paints amongst other clean neutral tones reconfigure a power in the women’s bodies without fetishizing them. Embracing femininity through sun-kissed colour and the uniqueness of the female form whilst simultaneously employing techniques of fragmentation and structured arrangement, this amongst other artworks explore what it means to be a woman outside of societal constructs. Located somewhere between a delicate femininity and the empowered female form, Ines Longevial situates an astute reworking of womanhood. 



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