How Does French Artist Cyrielle Gulacsy Stay Focused When Painting Gets Technical? She Listens to Physicists

Ahead of her New York solo gallery debut in January, the Paris-based artist tells us what keeps her inspired.

Cyrielle Gulacsy. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Cyrielle Gulacsy. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Cyrielle Gulacsy is the ultimate autodidact. Not long after getting her degree in graphic design in Paris in 2016, she decided to devote herself instead to fine art. But painting wasn’t the only thing she taught herself. Gulacsy’s work is informed by the study of physics, light, space, and perception. Her subjects of choice include the ergosphere (the surface that surrounds a black hole) and the chemical composition of a star.

This fall, the Paris-based artist has been experimenting with new techniques during a residency at the Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the South of France. Ahead of her debut New York solo show at Mignoni Gallery, which opens on January 18, we spoke with Gulacsy about where she finds inspiration and why a nap can cure a creative block.

Cyrielle Gulacsy during her residency at CAB Foundation Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo: courtesy of CAB Foundation and the artist.

Cyrielle Gulacsy’s setup during her residency at Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo courtesy of Fondation CAB and the artist.

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

Light! As I paint thousands of nuances of colors, I need the light to be perfectly neutral. I need natural light as much as possible, but it is not always enough, so the right artificial lighting is very important. As well as my sofa.

Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?

As you can see, everything is in progress in my studio right now.

Cyrielle Gulacsy during her residency at CAB Foundation Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo: courtesy of CAB Foundation and the artist.

Cyrielle Gulacsy’s studio during her residency at Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo courtesy of Fondation CAB and the artist.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

I am currently in residency at Fondation CAB in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (south of France), so I have been starting many new paintings. Tomorrow, I think I’m going to stretch a canvas and start the base of a new “Visible Light” painting. But nothing is scheduled, so anything can happen.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

It varies. When I start a new painting, I feel very energetic; I listen to music, mostly jazz. But it can also distract me. Painting is very meditative, but it can also be mechanical, in which case I need something that keeps my mind focused. Then, I listen to conferences or podcasts. I really like to listen to physicists like Carlo Rovelli or Roland Lehoucq, and the scientific radio shows of France Culture.

Cyrielle Gulacsy's studio. Photo: Cyrielle Gulacsy.

Cyrielle Gulacsy’s studio. Photo: Cyrielle Gulacsy.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

I admire an artwork when it stays in my mind for days after I’ve seen it, when it makes me want to go back to work. That can come from many things, but I don’t think it’s from a specific characteristic. I imagine that it arises from a general harmony, from the chromatic or structural composition of the work. It’s always a bit mysterious. I am touched when I feel that the artist has tried to convey an emotion to us or change our perception of reality.

On the other hand, nothing really makes me despise a painting or a work of art. Worst case, I do not feel anything about it at all.

What snack food could your studio not function without?

I am lucky enough to have a great Lebanese restaurant near my studio, so I always grab something on the way. I am a big fan of hummus and baba ganoush.

Cyrielle Gulacsy during her residency at CAB Foundation Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo: courtesy of CAB Foundation and the artist.

A snapshot of Cyrielle Gulacsy’s residency at Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo courtesy of Fondation CAB and the artist.

Who are your favorites artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

I really like the accounts of curators like Rui Andersen Rodrigues Diogo (@rui_ard) and Gerry Bonetti (@gerrybonetti) because I often discover really interesting artists there. I also follow many artists, but it is always frustrating to see someone’s work on a screen. Currently, I am really into sculpture as I am starting sculpture myself. I really like the work of Douglas Rieger (@riegerdouglas) and Ian Collings (@ian_collings).

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

When I am stuck on an artwork, I start a new one, or I switch to another one already in progress, or I take a nap with a spoon in my hand.

Visible Light Series/ D007 (2021). Photo: Cyrielle Gulacsy.

Cyrielle Gulacsy, Visible Light Series/D007 (2021). Photo: Cyrielle Gulacsy.

What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?

I have been working a lot the past few months, so I haven’t seen a lot of exhibitions. One that stood out to me recently though was “Women and Abstraction” at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. I discovered a lot of artists like Gunta Stölzl and Lenore Tawney. It’s also always exciting for me to see the work of Ruth Asawa, Agnes Martin, and Barbara Hepworth, who are among my favorite artists.

Cyrielle Gulacsy during her residency at CAB Foundation Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo: courtesy of CAB fondation and the artist.

Cyrielle Gulacsy during her residency at Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Photo courtesy of Fondation CAB and the artist.

If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?

As I just started a new body of work on the theme of spacetime, it would probably be images from visualization systems developed by scientists like Calabi-Yau, but also images of the cosmic microwave background, Maxwell’s electromagnetic diagrams, and LHC collisions diagrams.


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