The Artist

About Christine Arveil

Boston-based artist Christine Arveil integrates painting, writing and three-dimentional work in her creations.

Born in Lyon, France 1958
BA Literature and Ancient Languages, Lyon & Paris IV Sorbonne 1979
MA Literature and 18th century Arts, Paris III Sorbonne 1985
MBA Art Management and Public Policies, Paris-Dauphine 1993
Directing an international art festival and teaching, Paris 1993-95
Studio in Ann Arbor, MI. Teaching at the Toledo Museum of Art, OH 1998-2000
Studio in Boston since 2001. Partner with Benoît Rolland Studio
Painting exhibitions: France 1985-94, U.S.A. 1996-2010, Portugal 2009

Born in Lyon, France in 1958, Christine Arveil became the first of her working-class family to enter university, graduating with a master’s degree in Classics and literature.

In 1979, she joined the studio of Luis Ansa, master of lacquer restoration and brush calligraphy in Paris. From Ansa she learnt ink-on-paper and lacquer-on-wood Oriental landscape painting.

She continued studying at Isabelle Emmerique’s lacquer studio, while independently experimenting with early European painting formulas uncovered through archival research. She wrote the first monograph of Jean-Felix Watin, artisan and author in18th century France.

Her philosophical and technical quest for the founding grounds of painting developed beyond color. For two years, she restricted herself to using stone-ground black ink, tracing single large words on white paper, presented in a solo show, A mots roseaux Paris 1987. Arveil’s work was recognized the same year at the Japanese embassy Contemporary Calligraphy landmark exhibition.

After this ascetic period, she reverted to colors prepared from dry pigments. Further delving into the European roots of painting, she reproduced medieval manuscripts “illuminations” and their process of creation as a performance act. Her replicas were featured in the 1994 Centre Pompidou exhibition Ecriture, and she would later teach medieval painting at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio.

Interrogating time and space in art creation, she met Arab calligraphers Abdallah Akar and Hassan Massoudy who develop a perception different from those found in Chinese and Occidental cultures. She deepened this understanding by working at the Contemporary Art Department at the Arab World Institute in Paris (1993).

1992-95 were years of outreach to the international art community, leading art gatherings that brought together musicians and visual artists. This involvement led Christine to an Art Management and Policies MBA (University Paris-Dauphine, 1993), and then to create the international festival Latitudes Nord. Fiction and non-fiction writing also took momentum, steadily occupying her early mornings, while painting remained nocturnal.

In 1996, Arveil moved to the United States. There, she integrated her life and artistic experiences into semi-abstract expressionist images for which she devised a unique painting technique and medium based on violin varnish. She had joined the studio of Joseph Curtin, luthier, for learning from the violin making world. Experienced with lacquer and the documentation of finishes, she brought an original perspective on varnishing musical instruments. Her research has appeared in The Strad, a reference publication for classical music, on the BBC and in lectures at violin makers’ conventions.

Since settling studios with her husband Master Bow Maker Benoît Rolland in Boston in 2001, she shares her time between her creative work and developing the music studio’s outreach. Her knowledge of 18th century French crafts articulates with her dedication to creative synergies in the 21st century. Their studios are a meeting point for intellectuals and artists of diverse horizons. In 2018, she is a partner to Rolland’s Legacy of Knowledge Project that envisions an artform, bow making, from historical roots to cutting edge innovation.

Christine Arveil has authored fifty short stories, a novel, autobiographical texts, essays and poems. In 2009, she completed the Volcano Project. This large-scale multi-years ensemble – a novel, lacquer-on-wood red paintings, a stone-drawings series, sculptures and autobiographical materials- unites painting and writing in one strong entity reflecting on how the creative process arises amongst adversity. Seventy pieces were installed for a six-week solo show in Portugal, Azores Islands, then at Boston State House, in 2010. In the following years, she collaborated to the hand-made artist book Waterlines with photographer Sal Lopes, contributing 35 poems, painted calligraphy and the concept of the book around Lopes’ photographs of water.

Since 2013, she has designed two building-conversions into studio spaces tailored to the art project. As with painting, she takes architecture and sculpture across the scale, from actual buildings and art installations to a single stone or flower compositions, meaningful to a moment. Whether she writes, paints, designs architectures or intellectual projects she is a builder of places that harmonize technical mastery and imagination. She brings installation art and process art to life-size.

Christine has two children Sonia Elise Rolland, International Law Professor, and Damien Boutillon, Anthropologist, whose achievement and creativity she admires.

She is an active friend to non-profits like Music for Food, Community Music Works or Community Supported Films, that weave social safety-nets through the arts.

Roland Barthes once wrote: “On n’écrit jamais que le désir d’écrire” (we only ever write the very longing for writing). Such “desire” kindles my work. Of contemplative nature, I observe the real as well as the imaginary. I travel familiar places as if it was the first time, noticing the poetic within the ordinary. Poetry is a transformative experience; its strong statement, no matter the art form it takes, informs the present. Painting, writing, composing places—from art installations to live-in spaces, are facets of a same crystal. Whatever the material at hand, I “sculpt” my medium with precision to trigger a mobile and complex perception, beyond what had first furtively sparked my work.

I write on artisan notebooks with a fountain pen. Digital media only comes as a next layer of composition and communication. I write in the morning, stories that can be as short as a few words. I patiently work on longer texts to bring each sentence to a similar intensity and exact both the sensation and meaning I have in mind.

I paint in the later afternoon when the setting sunlight overpowers the studio, quietly installing high intensity as a daily norm; only then, plowing through feelings and technical challenges becomes natural. The mediums that I use for painting come from ancient traditions and have in common their elaboration steps: building a ground, layering transparent colors, “carving” an image into a micron-thin, illusory space. I paint with raw pigments that I imbed in thin coats of lacquer, on grounds of wood and paper, or gesso that I make from natural materials. Rather than a brush, I often use a rag and friction to move quasi-transparent coats of pigmented lacquer around. This gradually shapes the image with more depth and fiercer hues than processed paint in tubes and conventional painting methods would allow. I first see the image when it faintly appears, still a mere projection of inner emotion; then, I enhance the figure while dealing with pigments migration that alone influence the image, giving it a form of independent life. As the light plays with the layered lacquer, the shapes will remain somewhat elusive. Ultimately, different people see different representations. I like this lasting freedom for “reading” a story that departs from the standards of abstraction as well as those of realism. Bringing the concept to simple pencil drawing, I have been drawing since 2009 one small basalt stone: it is not possible to give an exhaustive realist representation, precisely because I try to be exact and precise. The multiple sketches form a series that will never be complete, and ultimately tells another story. Art is beyond grasp, always in movement.

To design interior buildings, I compose with found materials and industrial standards or simply use what is immediately available to transform the space. My choices were made to break free from the limits of today’s standardization and get closer to the each individual story.

My materials and techniques are not limiting: their process is labor intensive, but free and emotionally intense, as well as technically so (for instance: the dry pigments intense hues). It is my physical capacity that sets the limits: what I can lift, reach, and understand. As I tend to engage in large hands-on projects or intellectual pursuits, time in completion amounts to years at work with sustained focus. I pushed to exhaustion with my last large creation, the Volcano Project, mirroring the experience of the fictional character in my seed-novel for the project: La Faille-The Fault.

This overall demanding art process first came from necessity: the materials available to me as a young artist were ones found (an egg, colored dust, nail polish, a pen…). My strengths were resilience and a thirst for education, while overcoming my own history of trauma prepared me to navigate the different spheres of reality and abstraction. During my formative years in Paris, I researched ancient painting techniques and found new potentials for creation in each of these mediums. I collaborated with artists from different cultures and creative areas: oriental and Arab calligraphers, icon painters, musicians, musical instrument makers, story tellers, poets, photographers, filmmakers. Labor, researched knowledge, and imagination converged into a binding chemistry.

Crossing thresholds, I build a dialogue with the past, the distant, the foreign and the imaginary as well as the intimate. What is art creation? Wherever it stem from, art is surprising. It seems to harbor forms of resilient love and beauty, particularly the ones who resisted suppression.