Stéphanie Sautenet aka Stéphanie Ssoloeil is a French artist creating intricately detailed, surreal and hauntingly beautiful illustrations and paintings.
Inspired and shaped by her practice in shamanism and the occult, Stéphanie’s works explore themes of transformation, death and the interconnection of all things. Taking the viewer to a place that is at once sacred, debased, adult and childlike.
Wanting to get to know her better, we sent Stéphanie some questions to answer over email.
Explore Stéphanie’s fabulous and fantastical world below…
Name + D.O.B?
Stéphanie Sautenet (aka Stéphanie Ssoloeil), born June 10, 1972.
City, State and Country you currently call home?
In a small village, Rivarennes, along the river.
City, State and Country you’re from?
In Tours at the center of France.
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Your childhood:
I remember as a child having found in my bed, while we were on vacation in the mountains, dozens and dozens of ants, small and large, red and black, winged or not ! They scared me, but even more my parents who killed them all.
Obviously, I was talking in secret with all these little people who hid the world of fairy tales.
Later, I made a little book with my colored pencils: the story of a boy who falls into an apple, where live small apples with legs and arms. To get out of this kingdom, he must make costumes for them … Ants job!
I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but obviously those poor apples couldn’t come out naked without risking getting locked up!
*Your teenage years:
Adolescence was the most hectic, the most dense period that I have lived. I was eager for adventures and emotions, for human, cultural and spiritual discoveries.
I only thought of leaving the sclerosing, stuffy family nest.
This is the period during which we forged with my friends our ideals, our future commitments. A pact “to the life to the death” against these rotten societies!
Between rage and love, the need to create has burst forth violently from this overflow of emotions.
One hot summer afternoon around my 18th birthday, a spirit (that of a loved one) appeared in an icy breeze and enveloped me. He guided me to the sea and I saw as through his eyes, strata and strata of skulls, taking shape in the sand and underground, the remains of centuries buried.
The spirit spoke to me softly… Then he led me into the sea and pushed me forward. I was hypnotized and felt like I was completely immersed.
I woke up much later, still in the sea, as if I had just been reborn from this death, with this additional double vision.
* Your 20s:
After zoning in the city for a while with my boyfriend, we went to live in a valley in the south to stop the drug. We were already living outside, on an island in the Loire, but like rats eating the city’s waste!
There, in this valley, it was magnificent to die for! There was only nature!
We would be drinking from the source. An eagle had greeted us. We lived in its territory. One day, perched on a rock, I danced with him! I discussed a lot with the spirits of the place and the old stones. We found crystals in their hearts ! It’s crazy, we could have killed each other, having nothing more to fuck in our veins…
But no, it was a haven of peace. Only the wind, the storms, the cold or hunger mistreated us a little.
* Your 30s:
After the zone, I studied art therapy and led workshops in psychiatry, psychogeriatrics and addictology. It is with these people that I have the strongest memories!
One day, when I was still an intern in psychiatry, I asked a patient about the presence of so many buttons on his drawn character. In the absence of an answer, I stupidly said that it was pretty!
I then learned that this patient had drawn the number of stab wounds he had given his mother to kill her.
Since then, “no comment” has become a big motto !
Another time, at lunch break, smoking a cigarette with two patients, we told each other our memories of the big bang! Incredible, the three of us were present at the birth of the universe, still completely dazzled, stunned by this fulgurance!
In these workshops, as in creation, there is no longer any real space-time. The walls fly away to open onto interior landscapes where scenes of life are replayed and transformed, the hands in the clay or in the extension of the brush.
I have seen many incredible visions appear.
* Your 40s:
I found myself in a dead end, without a job, without money, stuck in my little village. An old lady lent me a garden where I grew my vegetables… I was rather isolated.
When a friend told me that if I didn’t go into shamanism, I was either going to go crazy or die of it! Shamanism, it seemed bogus to me! And in my campaign, we talk about sorcerers or healers, no drums!
But a year later, still stuck, I made up my mind.
In shamanism, the toolkit we work with is quite basic (care and psychopomp work). Everyone finally follows the injunctions of the spirits who guide them. I had always evolved there, without finding it too strange to never be able to share this bubble universe. Finally I could exchange with similar people whose closeness of mind didn’t bother, quite the contrary!
This complicity made me want to share in drawing my visions and shamanic journeys.
Well, I’m going to be fifty years old in a few months, the third age! Rather peaceful, but I find it quite crazy that in our time we have to justify so often in our life choices!
That magic, the pleasure of being alone, freedom (family or couple life have always horrified me) bother some people so much?!!
“The microcosm is like the macrocosm.”
“At the very bottom, there is a door that leads in the height.”
When and why did you first become interested in art and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
I did a few years at the school of fine arts. It’s especially a lot of handjobs!
I went on my way alone. Lots of DIY from things found in the trash. And I immersed myself in collages, book-objects, silent books. I wanted to scroll through the images like in dreams that do without language.
I resumed drawing much later, first in ballpoint pen. The ink line with its smoothness spoke to me of the body and its extensions. The energy field of bodies (not the more round and voluminous soul) takes on unsuspected forms, escapes from its envelope, weaves encounters, hybridizes and sometimes even flees its own body, opens on openings-cries , keeps the imprint of his wounds… I wanted to translate that.
(Some old drawings by Stéphanie.)
Then I favored the graphic mine and the colored pencils and more symbolic, metaphorical series: the Tarots, a book on witches, false holy icons…
The colorful shamanic visions then arrived with the animal horde, the spirits of nature, the ritual dismemberments, scanning and opening of the bodies, the spirits…
Any strong emotion, memory, hallucinated walk can arouse visions in me.
A scene then takes shape in me with the urgency to draw it.
I sometimes write a few words on a diagram.
I almost never do preparatory drawings.
But I also like to scribble more nervously nightmarish visions in black ink or conversely, produce more playful or erotic books for laughs!
If you had to explain your art to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
In fact, in shamanism we work with spirits and therefore also with extraterrestrials!
As for the most skeptical, they should already begin to learn how to discuss with the mineral or the vegetable for example, before approaching the taboo subject of the spirits !
I didn’t ask the aliens about my creation. I have other questions.
At first I thought he saw me as a country-bumpkin. I told them that we already belong to the ethno-culture in my area.
Well, that was a misunderstanding!
This archaism with which they surround us humans, is none other than our immaturity, our greed, avidity! They are stunned by the frenzied idiocy that guides us. There is an urgent need to change, but we already knew it!
In my opinion, drawing or creation have an action of negentropy on a mad machine.
Who are some of your favourite artists, writers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
I liked many artists and different eras.
For example when I was younger, I was more sensitive to expressionist painting or to the fury of the line (Stani Nitkowski, Veličković, Macréau…) as I had a bomb ready to explode inside me!
But I quickly preferred the narrative, symbolic and delirious universes which swarm like in the imagery of the Middle Ages, raw art, surrealism… J. Bosch, Brueghel, Frida Kahlo, M. Ernst, D. Tanning, Odilon Redon, Kubin, Unica Zürn, Fred Deux, Dado, Wölfi, Lesage… and recently passed away Louis Pons, Ghislaine, Henriette Valium.
I love reading.
Right now I’m in a SF phase. I’m a K. Dick fan. I devoured Promethea and Jerusalem by Alan Moore, the great visionary and just read La Volte and La Horde du Contrevent from Damasio. His characters offer a bit of optimism despite everything for the future.
Young, I read more women’s literature. I loved Nathalie Sarraute and the meticulousness with which she tracks down the intruder, the discomfort; Hélène Cixous for her learned delirium; M. Wittig, V. Valère, Le Féminin pluriel by Groult, A. Nin, A. Sarrazin, Kristeva,…
I played piano quite early (my favorite, Debussy) and the synth, alone or with friends. I liked to improvise, to play with dissonances… I listened to a lot of music (Joy Division, Tuxedomoon, The Legendary Pink Dots, Arvo Pärt, Janacek, Léo Ferré, B. Fontaine, delved into ethnic music…), but for a long time now, I like to work in silence, without being influenced by rhythm.
I need to listen to what is going on in me.
I go to the movies too little because I live far from the city and I didn’t have a screen or a phone for a long time. I found the telepathy works well and the screens put me to sleep with their alpha wave.
In fact, I think our inner landscapes don’t care about culture !
If people wanted to look at your art, work with you or buy some of your wares – where should they visit and how should they get in touch?
And here is my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
In ancient Greece in Delphi, not far from the temple, in this region where the all-blue olive groves are sandwiched between the sea and the sky.
For beauty and to have a job instead of ending up as a housewife !
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Once, as a child, I was completely paralyzed by the thousands of toys perched on the shelves of supermarkets. More than a lesson from my grandparents, they had transmitted to me the fear and the horror they felt in front of this orgy of plastic.
Above all I liked going out with my brother and friends, playing with my roller skates, cycling…
And in the evening I liked to chat with my stuffed animal.
Does sex change everything?
No, sex is a way to share with others and there are many more.
On the other hand, the sexual energy is sacred and allows the soul to make great journeys.
What are the top 3 items you own?
The drawing of my elephant (finally here is what became of the plush that I had as a child!)
A rat, that a lover carved for me in a coconut.
A small brooch representing the priestess with snakes hanging on a medicine bag.
In a fight between the following French pop culture icons Serge Gainsbourg (the musician) Vs. Babar the Elephant (the children’s comic book character) – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
Rather than invoke the great Gainsbourg, I prefer to pay homage to hobo friends who were going to give him a drink, like a god, on his grave in Montparnasse!
So let’s imagine one of them, totally stuffed, coming face to face with Babar, the king of assholes!
“Hey jester, what’s that costume? Did you win the Fève?!!”
And he pounces on him, slashes him and leaves him in shabby rags, bloody and almost naked.
The elephant, bare ass, paralyzed, soon imagines itself decapitated like many of its own.
Then enraged, he rears up and smashes it! But the other fights back, bites him with his old rotten teeth and a broken bottle in the hand bleeds him.
Finally after a few bad somersaults, our friend is in pieces under the weight of the beast.
And here he is already stirring up the thirst of his brothers leaning on the underground counter of the shadows at Babar’s bar.
So beware of jesters!
Please describe your last dream in detail…
Currently I have tiring dreams, because I have material procedures to do (optician, garage, various papers, test Pcr…).
It’s certainly banal but it quickly takes on a nightmarish aspect for me!
I circulate in sprawling labyrinthine cities, chat with strangers and get tangled up in my papers.
I don’t seek to dig these dreams!
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for?
I have a friend who, under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, spent the night reading an endless graphic book (something like The Book of Sand by Borgès). The pages he had just looked at kept changing when he returned to them. He was captivated. When he came to see me; he remained flabbergasted!
Her book was there on my desk, patiently being created.
Well, I would just like my work to participate in this infinity, the collective unconscious from which we draw.
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(Please note that as Stéphanie speaks French, our interview with her was conducted using translation software.)