« To carry my dreams as far as possible and to always be surprised »: Methyl’Mnê, Street Artist and Art researcher

By Michel Fily, May 18, 2019

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Visual artist trained in a drawing academy, publisher, Street Artist, Methyl’Mnê explores the fields of resonance and transmission between several artistic disciplines, between different cultures and mythologies, between matters and beings. This atypical creator, represented by the Pandorart Gallery, has compiled an iconographic and spiritual memory since the beginning of her career. Meeting with a traveling artist, who investigates the tribes of men…

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Hello Methyl’Mnê, can you introduce yourself to the readers?

My name is Adeline, I’m 33 years old, I am an artist in the broadest sense of the term. Coming from the illustration field, I am today a muralist who is friendly with performing arts. I draw since childhood and professionally for over ten years. I started my apprenticeship at the age of twelve, with a painter, Jocelyne Montagnon, in her studio. This first learning outside of the school environment saved my adolescence and I knew from the age of fifteen that art would become my job. A friend’s older brother was studying at the Émile Cohl art school in Lyon, specialized in illustration and cartoon. I chose to study there and I received a fairly academic training. I finished my studies in 2010 and I immediately started independent creation. A little before the end of my studies, I had already begun to work as a muralist with the “Cité de la Creation”, with whom I collaborated on several projects. Then, I did a lot of illustrations and graphics, posters, press drawing, theaters decoration, while continuing to make murals.

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What does Methyl’Mnê mean?

My artist name is more of a signature. And it has evolved over time. Methylaine, its starting point, comes from the methylene blue, which is the color of femininity and of artistic and spiritual research. Methylene blue is frequently used as a marker to test the permeability of a structure. This usage reminded me of my relationship to management and my need for independence. So, my first signature was « Methylaine Urban Illustration ». It has evolved into the current Methyl’Mnê. This new suffix refers to Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses, who are the guardians of the arts in Greek mythology. And the arts themselves are custodians of the memory, which is a central topic, both in my personal research and in most of my current activity, a work of handover.

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What are your techniques and media?

Originally, I come from publishing and therefore from the paper, but this medium became very quickly too small for me and the walls started to call me. External walls, because of their patinas and their “living” aspects, interested me a lot. I also experimented, between the paper and the walls, other media presenting the qualities of the one and the others, that is to say objects with a matter, but also a history… I used, of course, canvases, with which I try, till today, however, to keep a special relationship : I wear them myself, I make my own frames on which I tend the canvases myself and I uses a transparent Gesso, to keep the raw material visible. I also use recycled Forex, a specific choice for outdoor works made to give them relative durability. I finally use threads, fabrics and recycled metal items such as bicycle parts, fan elements, lights… Rather than a simple painting placed on a white wall, I want people to penetrate into a dynamic world when they meet my work. I borrow this from the performing arts with which I collaborated a lot. The choice of mechanical objects that I recycle comes from the « steampunk » universe which also influenced me a lot. These are mostly moving parts. Some of my creations contain objects related to the magical world of « mana ». The notion of mana, a Polynesian concept that is found under different names in other peoples, is the emanation of the spiritual power of the group, which helps to bring it together. These objects are, for example, dream catchers that I make myself, with in their centers mouths of sea urchins, or Amazonian ants caught in amber stones… It can be compared to paganism and primary cultures. These topics are very much rooted in my current research.

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Regarding my techniques, I use acrylic, stencils, bombs, Posca, pencils, patchworks, photo montage… I received a very classical education, so I master more or less all artistic tools, whether it is pastel, oil, watercolors… I learned to use everything. I worked a lot in photography with the matter, especially with patterned fabrics. At one point, I broke away from all the techniques I learned to work only on composition. I still think a lot today about which technique to associate with which motive, because both must make sense together.

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What are your inspirations?

As I explained previously, I am very much influenced by the « steampunk » universe, but also by retrofuturistic themes. I like to associate subjects in offset. Hugo Pratt is often thought of when observing my art. This anthropology character finds its origine in my training as a comic artist and cartoonist. I admire many artists for their graphics, such Atlas that influences my current work on the subject of labyrinths. I began to concentrate my research on the subject of the crossing of myths. I study what I call « the dream of humanity », that is to say the fact that similar iconographies have emerged at both ends of the world and from people who have never met. This phenomenon is observed in very ancient mythologies, on the primary themes that are the cult of the stars, the plants, nature and animals. To represent the moon and the sun, for example, the same traditional images are found in South America and North Africa.

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One of my last works represents three weavers, the three Parques of Greek mythology, who spin the destiny of men. This triptych is part of one of my projects, related to the Brazilian musicians André Luiz de Souza and Celio Mattos, called “De terre en couleurs à l’arbre à palabres”, whose roots are at the same time European, African and Amerindian. I wanted to translate this phenomenon visually. My first weaver is from the French area of Bresse, to pay tribute to Bourg-en-Bresse for which this project was created. But the colors she wears are very intense and closer to the South American traditional colors. On her chest are Native American motifs that contrast with the European traditional spinning wheel she uses. I represented the second weaver as a witch, whose universe is between Mongolia and Peru with the Nazca lines that I used to represent her body. I painted it with very raw lines, in contrast with some details that I worked very finely. Then I put a cage on her belly, with dangling filaments, feathers, cogs and a pressure gauge, elements clearly inspired by the « steampunk » universe. There are also dream traps I made with recycled items. A mixture between the Old and the New. The third spinner is a little Berber granny, a representation of the Eastern wisdom …

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I recently exhibited these three spinners at the Sofffa, a hybrid bar-gallery in Lyon. Their blue patio hosted a series of framed serigraphs from one of the books I edited, very square and sharp pieces. I installed in the middle space blue and red pieces, a color code inherent to my art and which represents the outside and the inside, the world and the soul. Finally, the main room was illustrated by the collages that I make in the streets. I always work my exhibitions according to the places trying to distinguish and qualify the different rooms. I would add that among the artists who inspired my work, Frida Kahlo has an important place, both as an artist and as a personality.

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Do you consider yourself a feminist artist?

My characters are female, for the most part, that’s part of my identity. I do not know if I would call myself a feminist artist. That word is heard and understood in different ways right now. But I think that the feminine has an important role to play today. Parallel to my work as an artist, a big part of my activity is in broadcasting and transmission. It is embodied in cultural and social projects that I organize and through which I try to understand how bridges can be built, between people and between structures. These are not feminist projects, but simply human projects, to which I think that the feminine can bring a lot, in the field of doing together, of cohesion and coordination of skills. It is a central research topic in all my fields of activity today.

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You have just joined « L’Atelier au 46 » in Lyon…

Yes, I finally found the place that suits me. At the end of my studies, I settled in a workshop called Mezz, in Pierre-Bénite. It was a group of craftsmen, visual artists, graphic artists, live performance artists… This experience enriched my practice in terms of learning, because I went through classical studies and I had no experience in developing an activity. I stayed seven years in Mezz before integrating, a year ago, this new place, with the objective of really developing my personal practice. This new painting space allows me to work on a larger scale. It is also an important artistic meeting place, because I have come closer to people who share similar issues to mine, humanly, artistically and socially. It generates a remarkable emulsion, which results in shared exhibitions that we present in the entrance of our gallery. In the current one, we tried to see how we could position intelligently drawings next to metal and plaster sculptures; how, using the natural light, we could superimpose sculptures and painted works, all with a narrative developed in common. My meeting with this place is a happy coincidence of life.

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What is your definition of urban art?

Urban art is the one that takes place in my street, outside and free to look at. I started this practice because of my artist’s relationship to the material, the roughness of the walls that interested me technically as a medium. I did my first collages driven by personal desire, without really thinking of them as a communication bias with the public. This is no longer the case today. My current urban projects are common projects, participative projects, made by the common and for the common. They take place in sites that make sense to people, who will mark a common history and leave a trace. Here is the meaning of my identity as an artist. Urban art is an art of memory and I believe that the purpose of all Street Artists is to leave their traces in the urban space. I share this idea and I support it by adding my own trace. The characters of my triptych will be part of a large participatory fresco in Bourg-en-Bresse, a project conducted for almost two years between amateur and professional artists. The idea is that of an « amalgam », in the culinary sense of the word. Children participated as much as old people and we played the conductors so that their joint creation would become appreciable and coherent.

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What do you think of the evolution of Street Art and its place in the art world today?

I find this evolution very positive, because it opens up many possibilities. This form of art is becoming more and more accepted, the tagged walls are no longer systematically erased and it is a very good thing. This growing tolerance for expression also opened the door to people who may never have dared to make art, because they have not studied it or because they were afraid to start a financially unstable career. The democratization of Street Art represents the possibility of a new field of expression. As far as the evolution towards the art market is concerned, it is an inevitable path, except for those who wish to remain marginalized against all odds. This is a consequence of the fashion effect that this discipline enjoyed in recent years and which has inevitably generated profit ambitions. But the artists themselves share, for the most part, the desire that what they create would be seen, that their ideas would spread and finally that their work would allow them to make a living. Personally, I do not take the monetary aspect as a priority. What is important for me is to be seen, heard and shared, which is why I avoid shackles. The bottom line is to be right in what I do. It’s my leitmotif, the « course » I try to always stay…

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This idea of sharing seems very important for you…

Sharing and accessibility. Some people do not care to go to museums, not only for financial reasons, but sometimes just because of the museum environment. Museums are often « far away » from artists’ studios, and a painting on a white wall does not tell us the whole story. Here at the workshop, we organize intimate events, to allow more qualitative visits and exchanges. I think it is important to have a clear intention behind the organization of an exhibition, be it mercantile or otherwise, and that this line of conduct must be maintained. As far as I am concerned, it is a kind of a personal astrolabe, aligned with the stars: if I deviate from my intention, I know that I am lost…

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What are your future projects?

The big fresco in Bourg-en-Bresse that I mentioned and another one in Jassans. The two inaugurations will take place in June and July. These two parallel projects are related to live performance arts and they required between one and two years of preparation. They involved a large number of people of all ages, and both are about the myths of the Amazon. They were created in parallel with twelve musical stories that will result in the publication of a CD. And they will also give rise to the publication of a travel diary, because these Amazonian mythologies are the starting point of a trip that I will make next November to South America. A journey of four months in Peru, Mexico and perhaps Cuba, with the objective of artistic residencies to support my research and further investigate these myths that I have been inspired by for several years. The travel diary that I will write will be constructed as a resource and iconography book about the crossing of all these ethnic legends. I will meet, in Mexico, sculptors of Alebrijes (see article « Cities of gold… »). I will join, in Peru, the artist Sponer, who has been working for a year with Amerindian communities about the survival of their cultures and their know-how…

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In the field of publishing, I collaborate with a political magazine, the « Foutou’art », which deals with people struggles and at this moment I illustrate for them texts about Native North American Indians fighting for their rights. There is much to learn from its communities, in terms of pacifist resistance, festive resistance, built and based on culture and on the etiquette of this culture.

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If I was the genie of Aladdin’s lamp and you could raise three vows, which would they be?

If I had to paint a place, I would choose a traveling workshop boat. A sailboat. Calls to residences of this type attract me, especially when they are about accompanying scientific teams to work with them on research topics. I also dream to sail one day on the Hermione. I called the associative structure that I created to carry my projects « O pavilions », it’s not a hazard. My second wish is to always have the means to continue to create, that is to say to have the means to carry my dreams very far and to have no limits to creation. Finally, my last wish would be to always remain surprised in my life…

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www.methyln-art.com

https://www.facebook.com/MethylN.illustration/

www.pandorart.com

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Auteur : Michel Fily

Journaliste depuis plus de 20 ans en France et à l'internationale, ancien correspondant culturel, passionné de Street art et à l'initiative de plusieurs projets d'art urbain en cours, dans les régions Rhône-Alpes Auvergne et PACA.

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