Laure Mary-Couégnias: “I Need to Forget That I Exist When I Paint”

The artist takes five minutes out of her day to answer our eight questions.

Nothing to See Here, 2022

Laure Mary-Couégnias brings moments of surrealism and the uncanny to everyday scenes. Chairs levitate, wild animals stalk through domestic interiors, and glasses of wine and milk fall to the ground seemingly of their own accord, leaving splashes of liquid suspended in mid-air.

There is often a suggestion of the elements in her paintings, as gusts of wind flutter curtains and bright sunlight stamps the silhouette of window frames onto walls. Her paintings are devoid of human life, but her settings all appear entirely created by and for people. She has crafted an uncomfortable world, where scenes are left open to interpretation, often with the suggestion that the main action is happening somewhere out of frame.

All or Nothing is her solo show at Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles. The collection of paintings offers views into empty rooms and theatrically staged interiors. These spaces are at once seductive and closed off, full of luscious colours and inviting furnishing yet missing the key element of warmth that makes a house a home.

Nobody’s Self-portrait #6, 2022

If you could save only one item from your studio, what would it be ?

I would like to take the chair that I do all my work in. It is indispensable. It’s not expensive at all, but I bought it a long time ago and I am attached to it. It is almost human to me now.

What was the last art material you bought to use in your work?

I bought a whole set of canvases but I haven’t painted them yet. I am doing a lot of travelling so I’ve needed to have some pre-stretched to take with me. A few different sizes in linen is all I need.

The Good Time, 2022

What is your go-to song when you’re working in the studio?

I don’t listen to any music while I’m working, the call of dance would be too tempting! I need to forget that I exist when I paint, and if I’m listening to music I am too present in my body. I listen to radio shows a lot. Usually to stories. It could be something about culture, history, politics, audiobooks. It helps me to escape while I’m making work.

“Sometimes you have to remember why you are doing what you’re doing and go back to that naïve place in the beginning”

Which single work of art would you choose to live alongside in your home?

A painting by Séraphine de Senlis. When I was a child I went to one of her exhibitions and that’s what made me decide I would like to be an artist. She’s not the biggest in the world, but for me as a child it was amazing: it’s like your first big love, you will always remember the feeling. I have always had a romantic attachment to her work. Sometimes you have to remember why you are doing what you’re doing and go back to that naïve place in the beginning.

The Weight of Hope, 2022

“I never know if I am young or old, present or not. The Louvre makes me disappear”

Top three art or photography books?

They aren’t all art books but I always have them with me and have re-read them the most in my life. They are all very important.

I discovered Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience by Celeste Olalquiaga when I was studying. It is very complete as a book. It made me understand that you can be very intelligent but also speak about something so simply. Jésus-Christ Rastaquouère by Francis Picabia is completely crazy. You need to read it again and again to understand. The sentences on their own feel like they shouldn’t work, but together they create the simplest thing. It helps you to understand surreality.

And Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. I have read the last page so many times. It’s wonderful and so mysterious.

If money was no object, what would you most like to experiment with in your work?

I’d like to reproduce the scenes from my paintings in installations. I would love to make enormous installations, but right now I don’t have the money, time or space to make it happen.

Nothing Without You, 2022

Tell us a pet peeve of yours when it comes to the art world.

The art world is my family, and like all families there are things we appreciate and don’t. But I love it and for me it’s the most important thing, I don’t want to criticise it.

What is your favourite gallery or museum space around the world?

Please forgive my lack of originality but I would choose The Louvre. I have been there many times throughout my life. I never know if I am young or old, present or not. The Louvre makes me disappear. My favourite painting is opposite the famous Mona Lisa. Wedding Feast at Cana is an enormous painting by Paolo Veronese and I am always very happy to see it. I find it funny that it’s so big and no one ever notices it because of the Mona Lisa.

Emily Steer is Elephant’s editor

Laure Mary-Couégnias: All or Nothing is at Richard Heller Gallery, Los Angeles, until 22 October

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