Aurélia Durand on how her practice brings together her cultural heritage and her love for 90s cartoons
Sitting in front of a wall of her stunning work, Aurélia discussed how she found her distinctive personal style. Recalling her time spent in Copenhagen, a city she called home for eight years, she says: “I was lonely, the winters were long and dark, and I needed colour and to reconnect with my culture.” She found solace in illustration, experimenting with colour palettes that were bright and varied, and drawing figures and characters that she felt better represented her and her community. She was also inspired by her childhood and growing up in the 90s, referencing the era’s iconic cartoon culture, with shows and channels such as Looney Toons, Cartoon Network and Disney. These were, and still are, nostalgic and comforting for her, reconnecting her with her youth and her earliest artistic inspirations.
Alongside this, Aurélia also talked about how childhood plays into her practice in other ways, such as the culture she draws upon from her birthplace of Réunion, a small island in the Indian Ocean. She was born there to a French father and an Ivorian mother and grew up in a family that was greatly influenced by both backgrounds. She was also exposed to the island’s equally diverse culture, surrounded by people from Asia, Africa and Europe, but set within a French region (France colonised Réunion in the seventeenth century, only relinquishing control of it in 1960). “This is my inspiration, where I come from – I want to tell that story through my work,” Aurélia says. As well as influencing her subject matter, this history also comes through in her aesthetic. Her bold use of colour comes from African craftsmanship, capturing the vibrancy of the textiles and the clothes that are so recognisable for their bright hues and intricate patterns.
Aurélia then took the audience on a journey through her vast and impressive portfolio of projects, showing work that she has created for brands such as Apple, Adobe and Nike, among others. She also recalled some of the most exciting and poignant moments in her artistic career, displaying the first book she ever illustrated, titled This Book is Anti-Racist, which took off during the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020 and eventually went on to become a New York Times number one bestseller. These huge successes gave her the confidence to begin pursuing new mediums such as animation, which she is now well known for. Her empowered figures found new life as moving characters, dancing to music that Aurélia says has become a crucial part of her practice: “There are not many illustrators who can animate, and by doing so I am able to bring some attitude to my work and create a universe with music and movement.”