Painting: Clément Louis, portraits of a queer generation

In his paintings, the Parisian artist Clément Louis enters the intimacy of his models. More or less-known figures of the LGBTQI+ community, without artifice.

Boy Jon slouching at the hotel

The two years of the pandemic were not in vain for Clément Louis. When he found himself, like 67 million French people, alone with himself as of 17 March 2020, the artist also found himself alone with his work. And if until now he was known mainly for photography, drawing or – the old-timers know – his fame on, the 31-year-old artist has launched a new challenge. Something “bigger”…

From photography to painting

His work is more focused on 3D, relief and texture. Canvases that are more visible but also more durable: “A painting, unlike the sketches you leave in your notebooks, you hang on the wall. When he picks up his brushes, he only has the basics, which he perfects, alone, in his apartment workshop in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. But he has not abandoned photography: although it is no longer the final act of his artistic creation, he still takes pictures of the model before painting him. It is from photography that his desire to create colourful works was born. Accustomed to black and white photos, the change of artistic practice was a way to explore a new palette of colours, and learn how to handle them.

Driss standing

Queer portraits

As in his photographs, Clément Louis keeps his obsession with faces and bodies. “Whatever the medium, I always come back to the portrait”, explains the painter to têtu-. And everyone is included: his family, his lovers, his friends, his encounters… He seeks to create intimate relationships, talks at length with his models, and tries as much to learn from them as to understand them.

However, in front of his canvas, instinct is the main thing. While he studies the colours in advance, the poses taken by the models are done naturally, at the moment, in enclosed spaces, often bedrooms, with the bed as a backdrop, loaded wallpapers, and unravelled sheets. Clément Louis opens the door to the confidences of those he sketches, and organises, in the course of the paintings, “an encounter of queer intimacy”.

Mimi on wall

Clément Louis wishes to put the LGBTQI+ community at the centre of his work. A way to make visible people who still lack representation. And as words are sometimes lacking, his portraits are a way of contributing to the building of a more queer society, but also a way of questioning our relationship to the body. This child of fashion first exaggerated, painted skinny creatures, deformed faces, the time to find his artistic identity. But today, he wishes to be more “brutal” in his work, more in line with reality. To draw a more accurate portrait of the models he draws. And perhaps, to change mentalities.

Translated with (free version) from french

First published on




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