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Spring 22 | Making The ‘Expression’ Print With Artist Chanel Tobler

A behind-the-scenes look at how the bespoke artwork came to life.

Marking what is her third collaboration with Aje, artist Chanel Tobler is the creative force behind the ‘Expression’ print of Spring 22 ‘Provenance’.

 

Envisioned in 2021 alongside Aje Creative Director Edwina Forest in the depths of Sydney’s winter lockdown, the bespoke artwork sees languid florals unfurl with unhurried, abstract lines, embodying late afternoons brimming with bon vivance and a yearning to escape to a time long past.

 

To delve deeper into the story behind the unique print, The Aje Report sat down with Chanel in her Sydney studio to talk about the joy of collaboration, immersing herself in her imagination, and what inspires her to create.

Chanel Tobler wears the Palette Ruched Top and Jolie Asymmetric Midi Skirt

The Aje Report: You have collaborated with Aje in the past, creating interactive artworks for multiple previous collections, including Resort 21 ‘Chroma’ and Summer 21 ‘Modernist’. How does it feel to work with Aje again, this time on a bespoke print?

 

Chanel: Working with Aje over the past couple of years on previous collections has always been something that has expanded the scope of my day-to-day studio practice. It has pushed me to see and conceptualise things differently, in a very welcomed manner.

 

Each time I have had the privilege to collaborate or work on projects with Aje, new threads and entry points into making work appear, both challenging and invigorating me. It is a process I really value, and to have worked on a bespoke print for the ‘Provenance’ collection was no exception.

 

Having said that, there was really a ‘dream’ element in this body of work. I was provided with so much freedom and trust that the drawings really generated their own type of energy. The brief was beautiful and seductive, making way for endless image conjuring. The entire process felt immersive and electric.

 

In hindsight, I see that I was hungry for superabundance and to feel encouraged, calm, and carefree, which ultimately is what the print represents for me.

Chanel Tobler wears the Cascade Gathered Smock Mini Dress

“It also opened up a door to imagining rich and expansive conversations, eclectic characters, hot summers, long lunches, ripe fruit, perfumed flowers, art — so much art — and respite in the shade of a tree in the height of the day.”

Talk us through the inspiration behind the ‘Expression’ print. What images and feelings came to mind when you were envisioning its design?

 

The drawings for this print were made deep during 2021’s winter lockdown. I was handed this lush brief where the southern French hotel La Colombe d’Or was referenced.

 

La Colombe d’Or is a family-run establishment that has hosted some of the most renowned and prolific artists, thinkers and creatives of the 20th century. It was a place where room and board was often exchanged for works of art. It is said to have one of the greatest private art collections in the world today. To open such a brief in a time that felt very closed off to places such as this really gave me the permission to travel there mentally, providing immediate escape, which I feel added to the making of the print.

It also opened up a door to imagining rich and expansive conversations, eclectic characters, hot summers, long lunches, ripe fruit, perfumed flowers, art — so much art — and respite in the shade of a tree in the height of the day.

 

I imagined just being. Being without hurry, without urgency. I imagined being taken by food and people and the rich beauty of the fullness of the warmer months of the year — that effervescence that can be felt when so many of these things come together in a single place and time. The feeling of ease, freedom and carelessness in the most beautiful and elegant of ways.

Chanel Tobler wears the Cascade Gathered Smock Mini Dress

Which artistic techniques did you use to create the print? What made you gravitate towards them?

 

My practice is predominately drawing based, [so] it felt very natural to continue in this manner for this print. I knew I wanted to work with raw pigment and pastel to create a really beautiful soft base, and then soft but dense blocks of colour with quick drawn marks layered over the top.

 

I made many drawings in order to find the point of resolve where the colour scheme felt right, and the marks expressed and created the feeling of a rich and curious summer. My initial drawings are always small, roughly A3, quick and energetic — always done with pastel and pencil — trying to capture or conjure the feeling of right.

 

Out of all the initial drawings that I made, one of the very first ones that came out felt as though it both matched and brought a wonder to the brief. It was this drawing that would ultimately become the final print.

 

Before arriving at a stage of completion, however, this single drawing was recreated in a more refined, resolved way on a large scale. The larger scale gives room to work more slowly and carefully, layering more and working the pigment into the drawing to give a vibrancy and energy that I can’t always achieve with smaller scale works.


Overall, the final work is very painterly, with elements of drawn marks that give the piece movement and texture. It is at once soft, intense and welcoming — all qualities that I find working with pastel on paper has — which is why I gravitate to it so much in my personal work, and did again for this piece.

Chanel Tobler wears the Cascade Gathered Smock Mini Dress

Tell us a bit about print’s warm colour palette. What do the different colours and shades represent?

 

The colour palette came out of a yearning for a vivid summer, fully immersed in heat and relishing shade from the sun; being in a full bloom ‘flower-scape’; for the craving of being taken hold of art and expansive minds.

 

It needed to be fresh but also very grounded with components of colour that accentuate and throw off a palette that might otherwise be too easily digestible. Combining pink and red for me creates a richness and succulence. I imagine sweet, fresh and possibly overripe, dripping fruit — there’s a sensuality to it.

 

Throughout the design process, we spoke about mimosas in the shade amongst flowering vines and the gardens of La Colombe d’Or, which is where the orange and yellows enter, fleshing the pinks and red combination out even further. It also allows for a lightness to enter the print, which for me brings with it an ease.

 

The soft and cool purples are a direct tribute to the lavender fields of the region. Nature felt important to reference, and so entered browns and olive greens, providing the print with a complexity. These earthy greens and browns bring it all back down and level it out, giving the palette a steadiness that It might otherwise not have.

 

The bright flashes of almost lime green really pays a momentary homage to the eclecticism of everything referenced and spoken about, and feels to me a reminder of the vividness of a moment: fast, fleeting and glorious.

“... the final work is very painterly, with elements of drawn marks that give the piece movement and texture. It is at once soft, intense and welcoming — all qualities that I find working with pastel on paper has — which is why I gravitate to it so much in my personal work, and did again for this piece.”

Lastly, ‘Provenance’ is inspired by artists who found inspiration in the golden light of Provence, as epitomised by La Colombe d’Or. Where do you go when you are searching for inspiration, and what is inspiring you right now?

 

Over the past year, I’ve been looking at the sky in a new light. Maybe it was something about being in lockdown that made me take more care with my eyes. I feel as though I’ve always ‘seen’, but something happened last winter where the sky just took me. The sky makes the world feel possible and expansive, it has all the answers. I just have feelings of awe for it. It pulls me straight into being alive. Constantly.

 

Back on the ground, though, I am completely enamoured by the phone photo right now. I like how accessible, simple and ready it is. It’s a documenting, archiving, language, and image forming tool for me.

 

Phone photos to me have a hugely collaborative element to them, too. It’s the immediacy and the fast exchange of ideas, it’s eyes doing, seeing and feeling, it’s brains together, brains lighting up. Taking and exchanging fast photos feels like world building, I get so thrilled by it. The same feelings of possibility and expansiveness occur here, much like they do with my intensity for the sky.

 

Right now, though, I am overseas doing research, resting and seeing family. This will always be a mode of inspiration and naturally a giver of new perspectives.

Shop the ‘Expression’ print from Spring 22 ‘Provenance’ below

Cassis Mini Skirt

Artist: Chanel Tobler

Photographer: Myles Kalus

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