Design icon and daughter of the great Phillipe Starck, Ara Starck practically grew up in the midst of shapes, designs and colours. Picking up the brushes when she was just a teenager, Ara’s love for theatricality and creating an atmosphere that will whisk her audience away is reflected on her paintings and in her art installations. We sat down with the artist to talk about her journey, her work at Le Meurice, and her love for the City of Lights.
Meet Ara Starck
GLH: Hello Ara. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. For the people who may not be familiar with your work, could you quickly introduce yourself?
Ara Starck: My name is Ara Starck and I am a painter…a multidisciplinary story teller, actually. I spend my time between New York and Paris.
GLH: Can you tell us about your journey and the choices that led you to be who you are today?
Ara Starck: Painting has always been the obvious choice for me. Very early on, brushes, turpentine, pigments and linseed oil became my tools of expression. Today my paintings morph into stained glass, tapestries and sculptures, but it’s always the same process of creation. It’s about telling a story, a figurative narration.
GLH: What are the encounters that particularly marked and influenced you?
Ara Starck: Gérard Garouste is my teacher. From Gérard, I was lucky enough to receive my first technical training. He was my very first guide to oil painting and self-portrait when I was still a teenager.
GLH: What role did your father, Philippe Starck, have in your career?
Ara Starck: My father raised me and gave me very strong life values. Perhaps the most important one is that “no one has to be a genius, but everyone has to participate.” Honesty at work is also an integral part of the values my father passed on to me and which continue to help me uphold my standards.
GLH: How do you feel when creating a new piece of work?
Ara Starck: I work on projects of such large dimensions that there is a real physical connection with the canvas. I don’t see it as a personal challenge, because it wouldn’t be of interest, but rather as a dance with the canvas, a kind of choreography, where what’s on the canvas can only take shape if there is a synchronisation of the elements. Suddenly the canvas exists in adequacy, coherence and elegance with the place.
GLH: You most often prefer large-scale painting installations, why is that the case?
Ara Starck: Large formats attract me mainly for the theatrical side they bring. This theatricality is already a first step in a universe, an open door to an imaginary space.
GLH: In 2016, you worked at Le Meurice, for their restaurant “Le Dali” for which you produced an impressive 145m2 hand-painted canvas. Can you tell us more about this project?
Ara Starck: The painting at Le Meurice was created in 2008, then during the restoration of the hotel in 2018 I was invited to continue working on my painting within the original canvas itself. It is an extraordinary experience to have first been able to create this canvas but above all to continue the conversation with it; it is a work that lives.
GLH: The work represents dancers, as you’ve said previously, but what is the meaning behind that composition?
Ara Starck: I wanted the painting at Le Meurice to be like a suspended theater, an echo of the scenes of life that could take place in the hotel, and in particular in the dinner room of Le Dali. The curtains reveal a choreography of aerial and ethereal bodies. I also wanted to work with a limited color palette, to reinforce the essence of the place. Red ochre for humans, white for ether, gold for the sacred.
GLH: Is there a project that you are particularly proud of?
Ara Starck: I don’t think pride is conceivable or even enviable. But if a painting fits right into a specific place, or allows for a sort of an interaction, one that would provoke a dialogue with the observer because it brings them into a new poetic, phantasmagoric universe, I would then consider my creation to be honest.
GLH: Do you have a particular attachment to the city of Paris and a place that you love and wouldn’t mind sharing with us?
Ara Starck: I love France and I love Paris. I spend a lot of time in New York, but I remain deeply attached to this city of mine. Paris is theatrical, Paris is the poetic ballerina on top of the music box. There is a timeless elegance inherent to this city that makes it sublime. The Square Court, especially at night, with its enigmatic lighting, is one of those places that I always go back to whenever I’m in Paris.
GLH: What would a perfect day in Paris be like for you?
Ara Starck: In Paris, as in New York, I spend my days mainly in my studio working on current projects. When I put my brushes down, I really like to walk. So, together with my husband and my two children, we go to the Saint Ouen flea market. Arms laden with new finds, we often go for lunch at Kong’s for the panoramic view of Paris. In the afternoon we take the children to see an exhibition at the Jeu de Paume, or discover the Trocadéro Aquarium. Le Meurice is an important place for us, and we regularly like to have a Japanese green tea over there. In the evenings, I often organise a dinner in my workshop with friends. It is around a very long oak table that a very nice ambiance occurs. And if we go out to dinner, we go to Mori Venice for the romanticism of it, or to Brach for the energy, and of course, we always drop by 9Confidentiel, in Le Marais, for a delicious cocktail.
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