Evocative and timeless, the energetic paintings by artist Linda Clerget speak to our most primordial selves — a deep connection that the artist is keen to foster. Deeply spiritual and intimate, the canvases are more than beautiful landscapes and abstract gestures. They are an integral part of the artist’s personal journey and an expression of her search for truth, beauty, and meaning in a world that often feels chaotic and cruel.
Recently, we had the opportunity to ask the artist a few questions, and we were struck by the story of her deeply intimate creative journey. A true Renaissance woman — she has also studied classical violin, theater, writing, and photography — there is never a dull moment in this artist’s studio.
From a distinctive Parisian childhood steeped in creativity to spiritual explorations that aim to give her adult life meaning, Clerget opens up about how she navigates her path as an artist.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
I grew up in Paris in an artistic world. Before becoming a company director, my father was an artist — the lead in a rock band. I think this helped me view creativity as something natural and acceptable.
Growing up in Paris, my relationship with nature was very limited and I think that pushed me to create my own world. As soon as I knew how to write, I started to write little poems. I was a child who was very attracted to writing and reading. I was convinced that I would become a great writer of novels. At the same time, I was very interested in nature. I remember making very precise notebooks on different species of animals detailing their characteristics and ways of life with photos and drawings. I liked to create and nurture my own secret garden.
I think there was a lot of hesitation on my part. I wanted to write as a child, but I didn’t see it as something artistic but rather intellectual and serious. I was very diligent at school and rather wise. I played the violin from the age of 7, but that was with a very classical, studious personality. My father was surprised by this choice; he thought I would have taken up the electric guitar. Then, as a teenager, I changed completely because I wanted to integrate myself into the world. I went from being an introvert to an extrovert. But I didn’t have a constructed personality yet, it was mostly a process of social integration. So I tried to have more fashionable tastes. But I still read a lot, a lot of classic literature, and also comics.
Later, when I had to start thinking about my future, I didn’t see myself in any profession. But I knew I didn’t want to have money problems because my father had told me many times that an artist’s life was very hard and that he himself had to stop his career. So I didn’t want to go into an artistic career at all. In the end, it was a very recent decision. Because I’ve tried many other jobs, and none of them could satisfy me for more than a year or two. I became an artist because I didn’t have a choice, it just came to me. And as we will discuss later, even within the arts, it took me a long time to find my way, to choose painting. But in the end, it came to me.
My choice to paint came organically. My transition to theater came about naturally through my love of literature, text, and writing. Also, I still needed to integrate socially, and I believe that my training as an actress helped me a lot in this. I am a very lonely person, and this forced me to communicate and learn to communicate better with others. I have always felt different, and it has been a way for me to understand the world of humans and their social characteristics better. Because I think I have always felt much closer to plants and animals.
After my training as an actress, I wrote a play. I wanted to put it on, but I didn’t have the funding, and the social aspects of getting it done were difficult for me. I find it difficult to work in a team. So I gradually moved into photography before wanting to expand my visual work.
Eventually, I started drawing classes and, from there painting classes before completing a three-year art course. Since then, I have been devoting myself entirely to painting.
Thank you very much. As I was saying, I think what I still haven’t achieved and what I’d like to do one day is to write novels. If there’s one other creative thing I’d like to do, it’s this. But at the moment, I have two small children, and I don’t have the time or the peace and quiet. Painting also allows me to go to other worlds, beyond words. It is exhilarating for me. I’m somewhere else, safe, I don’t see the time passing. I think my brain loves painting!
But I’ve experienced the same feeling with writing before, and I think it will come back. I actually worked as a journalist for two years. I really enjoyed combining information from different sources, and it created something coherent in the end, like magic. It’s a bit like when you see colors and spaces emerge on the canvas and gradually creates a picture. I like the feeling of creating. My body needs to exercise, and my mind needs to create. Then I can breathe and start again. It’s a vital daily need.
What inspires me most is nature, landscapes, plants, flowers. I like being outside, feeling the landscape, walking, observing, taking it all in. The people who inspire me most are often not artists but people who work with nature, like Jane Goodall or Elli H. Radinger who works with wolves. I think their lives are meaningful and that we, as humans, need to reconnect with the animal and plant world. But if I had to name one artist who inspires me the most, I’d have to say Ben Fenske, whose classes I took at New Master Academy and who is a contemporary impressionist. I love his approach to painting and his work with colors: I think he is very talented.
As far as music is concerned, I really like the work of Max Richter. I think I really like artists who rely very heavily on classical fundamentals, but without being pedantic but rather because it comes naturally to them. You understand that they have a real dialogue with the art of people who have gone before, and I think that’s what I find beautiful. In general, I like the idea of dialoguing with traces, sensations, the invisible.
I started painting by creating watercolor backgrounds representing skies on which I made very precise trees and branches in Indian ink. My work was often compared to Asian calligraphy, yet it was totally intuitive. Even if I don’t necessarily use the tools I used then, namely Chinese calligraphy brushes and a glass nib, they remain my favorites.
I would also like to include more collages, materials, textures, and objects into my work. Also I would like to add more transfer, traces and prints of patterns. My work is moving more and more towards abstraction.
I have been working with Julia Cameron’s book to help unleash my creativity. Since I first started, I must admit that I have hardly had any blockages. I learned that practicing automatic writing could help, but also that creativity requires time, and I should accept that there are moments of stillness even if they are generally very short for me. I like to produce. I think I still censor myself a lot and I hope to free my creativity more in the future. It’s a path that takes time.
With pleasure because it is a very important concept for me. While my parents were of different origins and religions, I never received a religious education. So I built a spiritual world for myself, which most closely resembles shamanism when compared to existing concepts. I have always been convinced of the existence of the soul, of the essence of beings and of the possibility of communicating in a more spiritual way. When I paint, I feel that I am giving a part of my soul, that my spiritual being is expressed in my paintings and that it will meet the spiritual part of the people who see my work.
In any case, I believe that this is a deep motivation and ambition. I think that art allows us to show another world, a deeper, timeless world which vibrates infinite strings in our minds. Like the shamans, I believe in the idea that our sleep, our intuitions and our creations all reveal strange, fascinating, mysterious things about life and its origins. I don’t have a precise definition, and I don’t look for one. That’s why I like painting: I’m able to reveal this feeling and subtly communicate it to others without them knowing it consciously.
I have a very experimental approach. Personally, I am very digital and I have more difficulty in presenting myself in person to intermediaries who could sell my work, so I have really invested in the Internet. I have sold a lot of my work via online platforms and also a gallery in England. Today, after all these experiences, I think I will focus on this gallery that knows my work well and is able to talk about it and sell online too.
I sell a lot of my work abroad, in England and the United States. I’ve found that local shows give me visibility, but don’t trigger a lot of sales. Despite this, it’s still important for my work to be seen in person and for me to interact with viewers. I love being in my studio and producing, and if I could work closely with my gallery in London almost exclusively that would be fine.
The funniest thing that happened to me in my artistic career was when I was an actress and played a bloodthirsty countess inspired by Elisabeth Bathory. We were playing in a small theater deep in Paris, and the whole experience surrounding the play ended in a tragic way: there was a fight between actors and then one week later, the sets of the play were thrown out by the new owner of the theater who had found them unacceptable. There were a lot of bad words between the people who were involved in the project and I had the lead role and didn’t know how to deal with it.
When it was all over I burst out laughing, which might have seemed cruel, but I felt a huge sense of relief. One of my actor friends had filmed the scene and you can hear my laughter behind it, like an echo, completely out of sync with the situation. Without that, I might have continued on this artistic path. I believe that this is what made me switch definitively to the visual arts, to a quieter and more solitary life. I have never regretted that decision. The world is violent and crazy, and I believe that everyone must find ways to protect themselves in order to cultivate their own intimate life and inner creativity. Every failure is a message from the universe that leads you along your path.