For the past 30 years Sylvie Fleury has cast Prada shoes in bronze, painted cars with nail polish, crushed makeup palettes by driving over them, and shot at Chanel handbags, all in the name of art.
Her most recent works subvert the beauty industry, as she reimagines eye-shadow palettes on a monumental scale to create alluring abstract shaped-canvasses, with a colour palette that directly references her source material from Chanel’s ‘Pink Explosion’ to Tom Ford’s ‘Camera Obscura’.
Fleury’s artwork explores the intersections between art and commodification, with her alluring appropriation of fashion codes and ready-made compositions questioning our desire for consumerism along with notions of fetishism, beauty, and gender politics.
“Why has consuming become such a big part of our world, and how did it become to be so? I see myself as a sensible woman, yet I can have these huge craving for new things, sometimes just looking at the boxes. I do have the wisdom to understand I’m being seduced, and yet, at the same time should I deprive myself?” she muses adding she decided to use makeup, clothes and shoes because they were arms of seduction as well as weapons of empowerment that she related to.
“Very early on, it was very important for me to make a point that my work was being made by a woman. I wasn’t just trying to fit in and try to conform. I was a woman and I wanted to talk about this [desire for consumption] from that perspective,” says Fleury, noting that at the same time, her work doesn’t pass judgment on consumerism, “I don’t want to make people feel guilty.”
Fleury admits that when she created her first artwork, an installation of shopping bags with their contents, she had “no clue I was putting my figure on something important” that would last.
“I went shopping and inside the bags were all the things that I had bought knowing they would be part of the final artwork, because they had elements in them that reminded me of art history, or an event, or they had a conceptual appeal, or texture,” she recalls, adding that while the branded packaging played an important role in her work, she was interested in exploring how people related to the content of the bags, which sometime they could not see.
“Back in the early nineties, fashion was seen a lower kind of art. When I first started showing my work I got criticized for incorporating elements of beauty and makeup, but I wanted to show that it’s not superficial and in fact, you can use fashion and beauty to talk about feminism, politics and consumerism,” she says.
Her work is not about fashion per se, but she uses fashion as she would use a colour in her palette, she says: “That colour allows me to talk about feminism, politics, fetishism and sexuality, for example.”
With such awareness of fashion and makeup, you may wonder what the artist’s favourite brands are, but Fleury is “totally unfaithful” in her own approach, pointing out: “I don’t have a favourite brand, it changes every season. That’s what’s great about fashion.”
A version of this story was first published on keyyes.com