How do we daydream an escape plan? I think every single person reading this went through the subconscious thoughts of what it was to feel static and need to move over the last year, and the way Paris-based painter Laure Mary Couégnias has worked with dreams and surrealism, a classic throwback with contemporary nuance, she has begun a new conversation about space and the places we inhabit. On the occasion of her solo show, Escape Lane, on view now at Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles, we spoke to her about rooms, dinners and Paris. 

Evan Pricco: I have a funny one; what is your favorite room you have ever been in? Could be from your childhood or just a room in a museum… 
Maybe my bedroom when I was a child. It has undergone many changes since then, so it exists only in my memories. A bedroom is a space in which the boundaries are uncertain. I remember creating countless surreal theatrical scenes in that room, with invented friends who made me feel less lonely, worthless objects that I arranged on shelves as if they were priceless treasures, whole boxes of things whose meaning escapes me, but each of which symbolised a moment I didn’t want to leave behind. I loved this room, it was carefree and made things more beautiful, easier, timeless. Every day it was different, every day I rediscovered it. My childhood room was the life that builds duration.

I like how you play with surrealism and domesticity in this show. Sort of sums up the last 18 months. How did this show in particular start taking shape? 
It is obvious that this period we are experiencing has written a new chapter in our lives, and whether we like it or not, this will change our way of seeing things on different scales. Surrealism is unequivocally a form of expression that I feel comfortable with. Domestic objects and/or spaces create a link with the real, I like to give my paintings a thought with these two rhythms conjugated. For the Escape Lane exhibition, I wanted to fix time in its seemingly motionless state, but which in reality flows like the water of a river whose source would come from a desire for deliverance. 

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I have a few theories about the name of the show, Escape Lane, because it feels like we all need an escape lane in our lives. Where did that name come to you? 
I invite you to venture on an uneventful journey whose reliefs suggest an available continuation. I like to wander without a precise destination, by car, on foot or even on the internet. Any walk that comes my way allows for the exciting possibility of getting lost. However, we all need to stop from time to time. Either because we’re tired, we’re exhausted, we need to rest, to put things in order to be able to start again. Or because, on the contrary, everything is going so well that we simply want to seize this moment and contemplate it. I wanted to give this exhibition title to evoke the pleasure of feeling foolishly at peace because it takes you materially away from yourself. 4) Has Paris changed for you over the last year or so? Has your relationship to the city changed? 

Last year I actually witnessed something I will never forget: Paris empty, like a ghost town. Before the pandemic, I lived my Parisian life punctuated by impromptu outings, absurd and ephemeral encounters, and unchecked conversations that one maintains until the first light of day. Paris is a city where freedom is the key word. We are now slowly recovering all those things we have missed so much. I can’t wait for the tourists to come back, I love the way they see Paris as a magical city, it’s part of the romance that emanates from this city.  

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I never ask this question but I like this question: if you were to have dinner with 4 other artists, two living, two dead, who would you invite? 
My first choice concerning the two deceased artists is without hesitation Séraphine de Senlis. This French artist is classified among the Naive Painters, an artistic movement I particularly like. She was the one who made me want to become a painter, so sharing a moment with her would obviously be a huge honour for me, and she will remain forever an artist very dear to my heart. For the second, I would choose Edward Hopper, an artist who also inspires me a lot, I would have loved to have the chance to listen to him. 

As for living artists, the first one would definitely be Emily Mae Smith, she is an extraordinary artist. Finally, regarding the fourth one, you have noted that I love surrealism, so I would choose Maurizio Cattelan! 

You have a solo show in Los Angeles, but what other plans do you have for this summer and the rest of 2021? 
There is currently another solo show, Dream Bank at the Domaine de Roueïre Contemporary Art Center in the South of France until December 2021. I will also have a solo show in October with Dio Horia Gallery in Athens. Then there will be other projects with Richard Heller, that you will soon discover… 

Laure Mary Couégnias: Escape Lane is on view at Richard Heller Gallery through July 31st, 2021.