Q+Art: Anne von Freyburg Translates Rococo-Era Luxury Into Class-Conscious Textile Paintings
For artist Anne von Freyburg, more is decidedly more. The London-based Dutch Anne von Freyburg’s “textile paintings” revive the hedonistic pleasures of 18th century Rococo art with sumptuous colors, silky fabrics, and an embarrassment of sequins.
With a background in fashion design, von Freyburg translates the pastel colors and lighthearted eroticisms of Rococo into dimensional works she crafts from contemporary fashion fabrics. Her work comments on the sensual frivolities of the upper classes by mimicking the colors and compositions of works by French artists like Boucher and Fragonard. Blending fantasy and reality, the Rococo artists painted scenes of everyday life for the uber-wealthy, who are shown cavorting through cotton candy-colored gardens in frilly dresses and powdered wigs.
Here’s where things get complicated: Though von Freyburg takes pains to translate Rococo’s excesses into a new medium, her crafting process draws a sharp divide between past and present. “Historically, craft and decoration have been perceived as lesser than the ‘intellectual’ fine arts,” she writes in her artist statement. By using the traditionally feminine art of sewing, von Freyburg “attempts to raise questions about taste, femininity, high and low art, and the constructs of female identity.”
While she embraces tactile pleasure, sensuality, and the just plain pretty, von Freyburg is also quick to criticize the worst impulses of the aristocracy. “Besides its visual pleasures, [my work] can also be read as a comment on excessive consumerist’s behavior and self-indulgence,” she notes. Rococo ultimately fell out of fashion due to its tone-deaf hedonism (this was only a few decades before the French Revolution and Robespierre’s Reign of Terror), but its celebration of love, youth, and beauty lives on in the work of by artists like von Freyburg. Her carefully crafted work suggests that aesthetic beauty belongs not to perfumed lords, tech moguls, or spoiled socialites, but to everyone.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Anne von Freyburg discusses the “more is more” philosophy behind her work, sewing during Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and transitioning to a new medium.
Which books, art-related or otherwise, belong on every artist’s shelf?
AvF: Why Are There No Great Female Artists? by Linda Nochlin, The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, Beauty: (Documents of Contemporary Art), edited by Dave Beech.
What are you trying to express with your art?
AvF: More is more.
Do you prefer New York- or Chicago-style pizza?
AvF: I live in London, so I never tried any of those styles, but I have heard from American friends that New York pizza is the best.
Would you work for free in exchange for exposure?
AvF: One never knows if the work that is produced for an exhibition is going to sell or what commercially comes out of it, so in that way, yes, but I wouldn’t engage in a show without potential or that I have to pay for.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
AvF: At the moment it is watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race while sewing my artwork and pasta carbonara.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
AvF: Besides getting my work exhibited, I would say deciding to make my mixed-media paintings predominantly out of fabric.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
AvF: Exaggerate your style and be persistent.
What is one thing you would like to change about the art world?
AvF: Being less white male dominated.
Would you rather be a historically significant or commercially successful artist?
AvF: Commercially successful, because you will never know in this life if your art is going to be historically significant一time will tell. I would rather have the opportunity to develop my work and for that one needs financial resources. It doesn't exclude one another.
What are you listening to in the studio right now?
AvF: I am lucky that my husband─Mytron─is an electronic music producer and a DJ; therefore I always have access to his amazing eclectic electronic mixes.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice?
AvF: Besides all the exhibitions being postponed, it also had positive sides. I don’t know if this was because of the pandemic or if it was a coincidence. All of a sudden, I had all this time at home where I could rethink my practice, which gave me the urge to push my work in directions that I was a bit hesitant about and focus on the textile side of my work. This resulted in colorful, vibrant, hand-sewn fabric collages, which offered me a more playful way of making. Because of the lack of physical exposure, I started spending more time in, connecting with online art magazines and blogs that provided me with some amazing interviews.
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
AvF: I am very excited that I will take part in Cob. X PLOP Residency in London this winter, where I will develop some more sculptural wall pieces. The idea of making my textile paintings becoming sculptural is something that I wanted to explore for a while, so I am really thankful that I can work on them in a residency with great mentoring and artists.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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