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Liberty in Paris

Creative Feel caught up with Liberty Battson, winner of last years L’Atelier, mid-way through her six month stay in Paris.

Odds of an artist like me, the winning work at last year’s L’Atelier, combined Liberty Battson’s investigation into the statistical likelihood of her succeeding as an artist (not good, it seems), with her mild obsession with stripes. This won her a six month stay at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, courtesy of Barclays and SANAVA, presumably improving her odds of success dramatically. This is the whole point of the L ‘Atelier, after all, to support and further the career of promising young artists. Aside from the coveted prize of a stay in Paris amid a community of artists, the award offers a prestigious head start for the newcomer. As Battson puts it, ‘winning L’Atelier catapulted my art career and set me in a market place I would have never dreamed to be at so early in my career.’

As it happens, this is not the first time Battson has undertaken a residency at the Cité. (And what are the odds of winning such an opportunity twice? Vanishingly small, one would think.) ‘I was able to come to the Cité in 2013 through a partnership with the University of Pretoria,’ she writes.

This stood her in good stead when it came to preparing for her residency this year. ‘Back then I contacted previous winners of L’Atelier, as well as others that had been selected from the University to get advice,’ she recalls. ‘Winning another six months here was ideal because now I had an idea of how I could use this opportunity to my full advantage.’

Battson is utterly besotted with the city. ‘I am in love with Paris and my time here. The art world is on fire and I am so captivated by it. I have been completely inspired. I had no idea that when I got on that plane to go live in Paris for six months that I would never return the same again. This opportunity not only inspired me but it has reshaped me.’

Central to this enchantment is the art to be found in the city and beyond. ‘The quality of art and the curated shows here are so impressive,’ she notes, speaking not only of Paris but further abroad. ‘I have toured Europe to see my all-time favourite masters, and I am using the inspiration as data for an my upcoming show at Aardklop in October. The fact that there is so much great art here is too good not to absorb.’ All of which is ‘hugely’ inspirational. She has, she says, started on a ‘series of the influence of old masters and drawing parallels with them and myself.’

She shrugs off the ‘challenges’ that usually accompany spending several months in a foreign country and all the disruption this entails. ‘Taking up a residency inevitably removes you from you normal working environment and sometimes it’s not possible to produce the art you would normally in your studio at home, but I wouldn’t call it challenging – just an opportunity to explore your art and venture into new possibilities.’

The best thing about her stay in Paris, is, she says, the artistic fraternity, ‘without a doubt, the artist community that is created here at the Cité, living among 320 other artists from all over the world. The exchange is overwhelmingly influential to artists.’ At another point she elaborates, ‘meeting so many new cultures and learning about a global art community is eye-opening and is affecting my art not only as a South African artist, but in learning how to take an international step into the art world.’

At the time of writing, the announcement of the 2015 winners of the L’Atelier is only weeks away, when fortune will tag a new batch of talented individuals, give them wings and send them flying – to Paris, New York, Sylt or Johannesburg, whatever the case may be. What advice does Battson have to offer the new and future winners of this exceptional opportunity?

‘Go to every open studio. Have an open studio. Engage and try to start to produce and experiment as soon as you get here. It is the fastest six months of your life.’

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