INTERVIEW: Aude Arago 'An Organic Exploration'

French artist, Aude Arago, has captured us with unique, free-formed objects inspired by nature and the ancient techniques of Moroccan Tadelakt. As a former ballet Dancer, Arago's connection to space and balance is inherent and reflected in her sculptural work, described as an organic exploration, where each piece is meticulously created by hand and beautifully formed. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where did you grow up? Where do you live now? 
I was born in London and grew up between London and the French Riviera. I studied ballet in London, then in Nice I attended a dance school programme. I was a contemporary dancer for 30 years and stopped about 6 months ago. I have always lived in Paris up until a few years ago, where now I have a small house with my atelier in Aubervilliers, close to Paris. 

How did you begin making sculptures? What was the first piece you ever created?  
It was a natural transition from dance to making sculptural objects. I wanted to explore a different kind of physicality, in a meditative and intimate practice. As a dancer I have a connection to space, volumes, forms, so the transition felt very natural. The first piece I made was a small vessel.

Can you tell us about the process of making each sculpture?
Each piece is unique, free-formed and hand crafted. I do not use moulds, it is a slower process but it keeps each piece special and a little different from each other. Hemp is non toxic, breathable, sustainable and highly insulate, it grows quick and without the need of pesticides or herbicides. The combination of hemp and lime with air creates a living piece as it breathes and captures humidity. The bio-composite material is an organic mixture of layers of hemp and lime dried naturally. Each material is sourced in France from the lime to the clay and natural pigments. These are not ceramics as I do not use firing, each piece is air-dried so it takes a different time depending on the weather and the size of each piece.
It is a slow process.

What influences and inspires you the most in this current body of work? 
Nature and plants are an endless inspiration, from shapes to colours, it is perfection and balance. I would call my work an organic exploration. One of my aesthetic choices came from when I danced at Le Palais Bulles designed by Antti Lovag, it has no angles or sharp edges, everything is round. It felt like living in a Jean Arp giant sculpture!

What are you listening to at the moment?  
A lot of Podcasts, "scene on radio" is an incredible and enlightening podcast series on power, colonialism, racism, white privilege and the patriarchy. Music has a huge place in my life very linked to dance, I can listen from classical to rap. These days I listen to Nina Simone, Alice Coltrane, Joan Armatrading, The Delfonics.

Favourite coffee table book?  
The Land In between by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg. In 2010 she travelled to Syria to photograph the ancient city of Palmyra. Her images now form some of the last visual documentation of the area prior to its recent destruction. She looks back at areas of past historical or political importance. Her images highlight how conflict, destruction, time and decay transforms the landscape.

And finally, what’s next for you and your work?  
I have been chosen to be a part of the Toast New Makers programme 2021. They support and mentor five emerging makers, I am grateful to have this guidance, it is perfect timing.