Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do
My name is Suzon Lagarde, I’m a French figurative painter now based in London. An important part of my practice happens from direct observation, using oil or gouache to look at my immediate surroundings (people, objects, places). Working from life, it’s through the play of light, colours and abstract shapes that I tap into the emotional connexions that move me on a day-to-day basis.
Another part of my work is created from imagination and memories. It allows me to explore subjects for which I wouldn’t have words; assembling brush strokes to venture onto the experience of being human and the struggles that come with it.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
I recently started being aware of how gender stereotypes have shaped my experiences, as a human being and as an artist. When it comes to art it shows through the need for ’women specific’ art prizes, exhibitions, or initiatives like yours- such ‘positive discrimination’ is a marker that otherwise our work isn’t shown, and our voices aren’t heard equally.
On a more positive note, I create the work I do by being who I am, and any struggle fuels my desire to produce meaningful work and fight to have it taken as seriously as my male peers.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
There are loads of female artists inspiring me, from the top of my head I’d mention Roxana Halls, Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf, Nadia K Waheed and Meredith Marsone. They each celebrate women’s minds and bodies and dare to tackle important themes like menstruation, sexuality, the able or disabled body, gender… and doing so in really deep and brave ways.
Those women inspire me to be as fearless as possible in my own practice, so I can produce honest work, and in turn, hopefully empower others too.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
As I mentioned above, there's some beliefs and behaviours that probably unconsciously slowed me down based on my gender and the patriarchal culture in which we grow up. For example, being uncomfortable with expressing myself, with taking space, having and showing confidence, from the way I paint to talking about my work or even selling it.
Also, it’s saddening to realise a majority of art students or art enthusiasts are women, yet when the hobby turns into a sustained job and praised practice it is very predominantly men that remain. I hope these upsetting facts will evolve quickly, as well as bringing more fairness in opportunities across class, race, and all minorities suffering from this currently privileged reality.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
That is a brilliant question that I’m not used to answering. Once a piece is created, I accept that it gains a life of its own and people can project whatever is meaningful to them, independently of what I intended to present.
But I think I care about injecting honesty and vulnerability into my paintings. They contain contradictions: colourful shapes tackling darker subjects, protagonists are children but they’re already trying to escape reality… In similar ways, people see me first as a joyful person, yet I heavily struggle with my mental health. My paintings are reflective of that: bright on the surface but raw and hurting for who is willing to see. I’m very grateful I have art to express this -rather universal- complexity and finding ways to ‘feel seen’.