Fingers caressing each other like tongues. A woman bent over naked, trapped in droplets of water. Another woman smoking while the clouds of smoke form an estranged reflection. With soft airbrushing, sharp digital layering and ever-so-delicate colouring, Swiss artist and illustrator Louisa Gagliardi manages to both titillate and intrigue. And by skewing perspectives—as well as by mastering the play between light and dark—she creates intimate yet esoteric bodily landscapes.
While studying graphic design at ECAL, Gagliardi began developing her toolbox and perfecting her craft, all the while growing into the role of artist. Her most recent series, La Belle Heure, began as an inner conflict, the kind that may occur when classical training meets creativity: “This new body of work happened at a moment when I started to feel restrained by my own aesthetic. All my images were planned, very constructed and controlled; from the beginning, I knew how they’d turn out,” she tells Glamcult.
The 27-year-old’s work often addresses interpersonal relationships as well as our desire and yearning for materialistic “happiness”. In her images, Gagliardi captures not only the emptiness of her subjects, but also their acute need to co-exist. They are, although utterly surrealistic, still highly relatable. For haven’t we have all glared with lonely stares, lit by the light from one or several of our multiple screens, wondering if there may be more to life? This is ever so present in La Belle Heure: “The series represents stolen moments of loneliness in social situation, putting emphasis on the need of consumption (alcohol, cigarettes, checking your phone) as an attempt to find comfort and relief. Or how in social situation the subject never feels alone and is always in representation, how they feel the urge to look busy to avoid awkwardness, and the specific body language of that scenario.
Apart from portraying this human condition of arrest, Gagliardi also, more often than not, deals with the sexualization and flesh of the body. And while some would argue sex is a human right, we can at least all agree that it is a large part of our lives. On the flipside, though, it can most definitely be a catalyst for anxiety, emptiness, loneliness, alienation and what have you. And while viewing Gagliardi’s oeuvre, this could not be more apparent, from the verging-on-hardcore-porn aesthetics of the series Over and Under, where smooth and pierced bellies, nipples and labia are almost literally in your face, to the more subtle longing and caresses in La Belle Heure. From where precisely these images stem, only Gagliardi knows—although her source for inspiration is indeed tightly knit in real life: “The subjects often come from the pictures I’ve made during openings or social gathering, or even social networks.”
Although the bulk of her work is created on-screen, Gagliardi tends to add a physical or tactile element to her prints such as nail polish, latex or even jewellery. This additional material is not only for aesthetic reasons, but also made to highlight or accentuate certain objects or traits: “These artificial products made to either embellish (nail polish) or change the appearance (the use of latex or even the gel used to add texture) somehow have the same role as alcohol and cigarettes, a means for the subject to increase confidence, find comfort in superficiality, blending in by fashionably standing out.”
While highly prolific in her personal work, Gagliardi has also been commissioned by Kenzo, Nike and Wallpaper*, among others, to illustrate their concepts and designs. And with exhibitions in both Paris, Berlin and New York this year as well as a residency at Fondation Suisse in Paris, it’s safe to say that 2016 has been—and will most probably continue to be—a good year for the young artist. And although we’re not ones for speculating, we do think that Gagliardi will continue to speak to our humanity and amuse our innermost kinks for years to come.