Sometimes, the spark for your next project can come when you least expect it. This was the case for artist Claire Fahys, who one day found herself transfixed by goings on outside of her studio window. One of her neighbours in the warehouse she worked from – a mechanic who specialises in motorbikes – was doing wheelies and deft ticks on his bike in the shared parking lot. Transfixed by what she saw, Claire immediately began painting. Then, after speaking to her neighbour, she discovered the subculture of rodeoing.
Soon becoming transfixed by the phenomenon, Claire set herself on creating a whole series based on it. She recalls: “I wondered how to translate this life impulse into painting; how to capture the way they move on their bikes, their grace and virtuosity; how to express the freedom they clearly experience in that moment.” Conducting research through social media, where Claire explains many rodeos document their practice, she watched hundreds of videos, screenshotting them and reworking their dynamics. Reaching out to the rodeos to let them know of her project, Claire says to have also “enriched” the whole process: “they’re an amazing crowd who have been so supportive.”
Born and raised in Paris, Claire moved to London at 19 to study graphic design at Central St Martins. Despite opting for a graphic design degree, Claire had already been painting and soon began exhibiting her work. After seven years in London, Claire moved to Berlin where she honed her oil painting practice. In recent years Claire made the move back to Paris, with her most recent exhibition of the Rodéo series taking place at Galerie Hussenot.
Nailing the aesthetics for the series came quite easily, as Claire explains: “the riders dress in a certain style and the colours of the bikes are specific according to the brand.” What was trickier, however, was lending her palette to the very bright colours, as she had never worked with such a colour scheme before. Beginning each piece, Claire would start with the general pose, sketching out the compositions beforehand. Then, to evoke a sense of movement and to reflect the choreography she used loose, sweeping brush strokes.
The one painting from the series that stands out for Claire is that of Abder. In the piece, Abder is shown throwing his arm back and looking over his shoulder – the work both showing the incredible dynamics of rodeoing, and Claire’s ability to capture such tough compositions. Abder was also one of the rodeos to attend the exhibition’s opening: “It was amazing to speak with the riders in person, and see their reactions and feedback to the exhibition, which they received really well,” Claire details.
On how she hopes people will receive the series, Claire says that predominantly she hopes “that people can broaden their mind about the complexity of such a phenomenon”. Highlighting that people often stereotype the subculture as subversive and dangers (and while she identifies that the danger element is hard to argue with) she also wants people to try to see beyond that, and see “the beauty and skill involved” and “the risks they take to feel alive and free”. She finishes: “As a painter, it has been important to me to shine a light on the way we perceive and understand the world, and it is important to appreciate it with a variety of nuances.”
GalleryClaire Fahys: Rodéo (Copyright© Claire Fahys & Galerie Hussenot, 2022)
Claire Fahys: Rodéo (Copyright©Claire Fahys & Galerie Hussenot, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.