French painter Johanna Dumet fell in love with painting aged four, following a project at school. “Your daughter, she would paint night and day if she could,” her teacher told her mother.
Now exhibiting regularly across Europe and building a large portfolio, she is doing just that: “I’m 28 years old, and can officially call myself a painter!” she tells It’s Nice That. “The four-year-old little me would be so proud.”
Johanna describes her colourful work as “classical”, utilising traditional methods such as canvasses coated with rabbit glue that have been around for centuries. The subject matter, however, has a slightly more modern edge to it: “I generally paint what I see and live in the year 2020, so it looks pretty much contemporary,” she says. “Lots of still life, tables filled with food, coffee, wine, cigarettes. I also paint what nature gives us: fruits, vegetables, flowers, they really are masterpieces and are colours and shapes I will never get tired of.”
Johanna has an open approach to textiles and materials, stemming from studying fashion at University. “As I had one foot in the fashion world, and still make my clothes, I see that there is not so much difference between a piece of clothing and a painting.” She goes on to explain the similarities between a piece of fabric used to make clothes, and that same piece of fabric being stretched over wood to make a canvas. “I still see both as a piece of fabric with colours. OK, they have different functions, but both have a lot to do with aesthetics and beauty.” She blurs the lines of this in her series Portraits of Carpets that are canvases that remain unframed. “These paintings look like textile work because of the fact that the canvas hangs heavily like a textile, but it’s simply a painting.”
Her embrace of colour also stems from her work within fashion: “I had an internship in India, in Calcutta for two months; there I saw a never-ending catwalk of colours. Also wrong combinations of colours, but it was so intense that I started to find it exquisite and realised that there are no rules with colours, they can all fit really well together.”
This approach to colour also informs her style, which she describes as “honest, frank and free” – something she attributes to her childhood enjoyment of painting, an enjoyment she still has to this day.
One thing that Johanna is extremely proud of is her studio in Berlin, the city she has lived in since 2012. Sharing it with her boyfriend, she managed to find a vast penthouse studio in Villa Heike, an old German villa built in 1910. She explains how studio space like this is few and far between now in the city: “This is not something that you can often find in Berlin anymore. The dream of a big studio in Berlin for small money is over, completely over!” she laments. “We have to live with that. Berlin became expensive, there are a lot of artists living here, more than there are studio spaces.” As a result of this, her work is often framed within this impressive studio space, hung or pictured in these surroundings that almost become an extension of the pieces themselves.
Although being expensive, she feels that moving into this space was an opportunity she could not miss, and is one that has ultimately been a success. “I was ready to take such a risk and work in a place that is representative of my work, and it worked out. Since we moved to this studio more than a year ago my work became more visible,” she says. “I started to get lots of interviews, studio visits, clients, galleries. It’s all that I could have wished for!”
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.