Léa Augereau’s Figurative Feminism

by Ernela Vukaj // July 08, 2019

This article is part of our artist Spotlight Series.

Léa Augereau is a Paris-based artist who incorporates her education in fashion design into her paintings. Her work encapsulates the independent, young woman while referencing 20th-century figuration. The La Rochelle–born painter says she didn’t have much access to art until she visited London at the age of 18, but since then she has created a name for herself through her boldly coloured paintings and large-scale weavings, as well as her line of clothing.

With the use of acrylics, Augereau manages to balance vibrant block colours with a feminine softness. The terracotta oranges and earthy browns offset the pastel pinks and pale blues, exuding a tropical feel. Her heavy use of plants is also reminiscent of the works of Henri Rousseau, making them feel exotic but familiar. These works are also often printed onto reproduced large woven fabrics and, as such, her work becomes accessible and available for a much wider audience. These printed works are as functional as they are beautiful; they’ve been pictured in use as towels, curtains, wall hangings and blankets.

Lea Augereau: ‘PARTY’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 30cm x 20cm // Photo courtesy of Lea Augereau

While at first glance her paintings may seem based entirely on colour and aesthetic, they champion multiculturalism and comment on contemporary feminism; after all, Augereau has emphasised her interest in reinterpreting what a “good” woman looks like. The figures in her paintings are multi-ethnic and appear as part of the same gang. Many of the figures are surrounded by friends, holding glasses of wine or cigarettes in their hands. Her work asks why, frustratingly, men who are depicted in this way do not have their reputations questioned?

Lea Augereau, TOGETHER, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 30cm x 20cm // Photo courtesy of Lea Augereau

This portrayal of the modern, 21st-century woman is especially highlighted in the piece ‘The Stoner’ (2018). The painting features a female figure laying down on her stomach with a bong in front of her and a plant behind her. She is wearing a button-down, yellow blouse with puff sleeves, orange flared trousers and large green earrings. She is barefoot but wearing red lipstick and pale eyeshadow, her eyes defined with black eyeliner. She stares directly at the viewer with her head resting on her hand in a very relaxed position, yet she seems to be confronting the viewer. Is she the archetypal image we would associate with a “stoner”? Her heavy eyelids and slight smirk question your opinion of her, yet at the same time seem to tell you that she doesn’t care.

Lea Augereau: ‘THE STONER’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 30cm x 20cm // Photo courtesy of Lea Augereau

Augereau’s background in fashion design is clearly reflected in her work: she paints the girls she dresses and many of the figures wear her own designs, complemented by bold red lips and oversized jeweled earrings. The styling of these figures is comparable to Paloma Wool’s feminist designs, which are made with the same intention of uniting women through their individuality. The girl gangs Augereau paints feel exclusive but somehow relatable, especially since most of her pieces are named using social media slang, like “The Squad” or “Queen”. Through the use of her own fashion designs, Augereau creates a feminist world that feels aspirational, yet tangible at the same time.

Lea Augereau, TCHIN, 2018, woven cotton, 137X192 cm // Photo courtesy of Lea Augereau

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