Swimming pools have often been used as a visual metaphor for the imagination. In David Hockney’s pool pictures, waves wrap around swimmers like tentacles, drawing them into currents of thought. In other paintings, lovers chat and sunbathe side by side as they lounge next to miniature waves. Pools are places where people both socialize and seek escapism, and their crowded yet dreamy nature is what inspires Paris-based illustrator Virginie Morgand.
“My favorite swimming pool in Paris is right next to the Seine river,” says Morgand, who’s been drawing people in pools ever since she first became an illustrator. “It has large windows and you can see the river outside. It almost feels like your swimming in it.” Her screenprints also seem to eradicate the boundaries of an edge—vibrant blues go on and on as if it were an infinity pool stretching to the Seine and beyond.
Morgand is drawn to pools as a theme because of their iconic visual strangeness—she likes to capture bodies floating in blue as well as old-fashioned suits and vintage caps. For her recent solo show, Morgand invited fashion designer Pryscille Pulisciano to create five swimsuit costumes inspired by her pool series; the suits mirrored the print’s simple, striking tones and use of rounded shapes.
“I like the primary colors in Olympic pools and, because of the transparency of the water, I enjoy layering tones in the screen-printing process,” Morgand says about her color choices. For the bright blues, she selected a cyan pigment combined with a dash of magenta for a sense of chlorinated vibrancy, and then layered this on top of dark green to depict body parts submerged underwater. She purposefully works within a limited color palette and concentrates on evoking different characters through varying costumes, postures, and styles.
The prints convey personality, but they’re also hypnotic like the shapes in a kaleidoscope. This is because of Morgand’s meticulous approach to composition. “I treat scenes almost like a pattern: movement, dynamism, and balance are key.”