Céline, also known as Citron Rouge, is not your average doll customizer. The darkness of her aesthetic is matched only by her talent with not just customizing, but photography as well. With a solid body of work on ball-jointed dolls (BJDs) as well as Blythes and the occasional Pullip, Céline stands as an icon in the doll community.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Céline for Doll Break and it is now my privilege to present the interview to you. Please note that Céline's answers were clarified by me since English is not her first language; all changes were approved by Céline before the interview was published. More importantly, while I have not selected any images that I consider "not safe for work" many of them are suggestive of things one might not want co-workers or supervisors asking questions about. I would not consider the images appropriate for younger readers, but you are free to use your discretion. For those of you not familiar with the world of Citron Rouge you are in for a wild ride into a world of darkness and eroticism, populated by demons and saints alike. If you are already well-acquainted with Céline's work I hope that this interview gives you new perspective and insight into one of the most talented artists working in the doll medium today.
Hit the jump to dive into the world of Citron Rouge!
How did you start collecting dolls?
It was in 2004, I was already very interested in Japanese art toys, figurines, and Japanese/Korean pixel art. I knew of and really appreciated Volks and the four sisters, Alchemic Labo and the Unoa, and Dollstown and the Seola. While visiting some Japanese/Korean websites I discovered Pullip dolls from Jun Planning and I was more seduced by vinyl dolls than resin (probably because they were closer to toys and figurines). I found them very pretty and with no precise idea in mind I got both a Raphia and a Latte, one for keeping "stock" and another one for trying some little changes like face-up, wig, etc.
La fée morte (Dead Fairy)
Did you start customizing your dolls straight away or was it something that happened gradually over time?
When I bought these two Pullips I had no precise idea of what to do with them. I haphazardly took some photos and made some clothes, but I wasn't absolutely convinced. It didn't fit me, it wasn't me. It was only two years later (or something like that) with my first Blythe when I really wanted to add a seriously artistic mood to my dolls and was more convinced. At the beginning it was exclusively photography. I'm crazy about 60s and Mod culture and I found in Blythe the perfect medium for doing something in that mode. Step by step, and out of curiosity, I finally tried almost all kinds of dolls, vinyl as well resin, and if the vinyl offered me the possibilities to express my passion for the retro eras, the resin was also perfect to express my others passions: horror and erotic arts, mythologies, BME, and natural differences. Now I'm working and having a lot of fun with these two different styles.
Laudanum, Sirène-fleur toxique (Laudanum, toxic flower-Siren)
What was the most challenging part of customizing that you had to learn?
Nothing seemed to me to be really complicated or difficult. You have just to think about the best way to obtain the final result you're looking for and slowly and seriously work on it. Learning and acquiring the proper equipment answers many of the questions. Even if vinyl or resin dolls are possibly expensive in price, they will stay very beautiful objects, and I don't have any regret about completely transforming them; it's my way to give them life.
Do you find that your work is easily misunderstood by the people who view it?
To me my dolls are not so strange or offbeat. I just express who I am and by what I'm artistically or personally interested in (or both). Some themes or obsessions follow me for a very long time, sometimes since my childhood. My work is in complete continuity with general Asian and inter-Asian erotic culture, so maybe for a non-Asiatic person there is something curious about it, and I can understand that perfectly. By the way, even if my dolls are different, I've always received only positive feedback, compliments, and support. There's been absolutely no incomprehension of my work or obligation to justify myself. Anyway, this is something I never did and have always refused to do. I create my dolls in that way just for me, I don't need people's approval, and there are enough different styles of dolls so everyone can find happiness.
Les Précieuses ridicules en vacances (The Precious Ridiculous Holiday)
I believe that good art can be challenging or even upsetting to the viewer. With creations that suffer from childhood deformities or make mention of rape, what are you hoping that the audience will take away from it?
To be completely honest, not finding my dolls especially offbeat, I've never asked myself what people would feel in front of my work. I began the heavy mods out of pure selfishness, for my personal pleasure, and to express themes that I especially love, but my work has never had the pretension to convey any message of tolerance or anything in that way. I just do what I like and what inspires me, people join in or not. Besides I hate decrypting each element of my work, either the heavy mods or photography. Everyone is free to see/read what she or he wants to, but I do not impose anything. Sometimes it's very interesting and curious to see with one common image that interpretations can vary widely.
Idolize, papesse (Idolize, Pope)
You said that your work is in tune with Asian erotic culture and that you don't expect people outside of Asia to understand it, but you are French, correct? I would have assumed your work was more in line with the French feminist culture and functioned as critique, especially with your re-interpretations of mythology.
This is, in part, in line with Asian erotic culture, but not exclusively; my inspirations are various and international. I never chose the Asian erotic culture specifically, it's just the culture which speaks to me and seduces me, more than the European one, for example. There is a melting pot of what feeds me artistically, since my childhood and teenage years, in very different categories, and this provides themes, which at first have no common threads anyway, mixed and re-combined. I happily mix Greek or Scandinavian mythology, or traditional religious representations, with Asian erotic iconographies.
However, my work is probably the opposite of contemporary general feminism. My female figures are often enslaved and dominated, morally as well as physically, but only by choice, not by constraint, there is never rape connotation. I often call them "willing victims." They find some form of pleasure and personal accomplishment in it. Again, my work does not denounce anything, there is no social speech of society. What I explore visually stops at what might be called carnal and emotional experiences, all transposed on substitutes of human beings, allowing interpretations far beyond human limits.
Madone des péchés (Madonna Sins)
Mythology and religion are major themes in your work, what is it that attracts you to these two genres?
When I was a child, I read a lot of tales, legends, and mythologies and, as an adult, I gained a spirituality that is very pronounced and very personal. It doesn’t coincide with any existing religion, to my knowledge, but Catholicism is the one that they taught me, so naturally I tend toward this one when I want to exploit some aspects of religion.
What I always liked in mythology and religion (which in a sense is also a form of mythology, with its stories and its creatures) is that there are still several reading levels that promote the development of imagination. Everyone is free to have their own interpretation and vision of the thing. And mythologies and religions have always dealt with the complexity of the human being, soul and body, sins, good and evil, with a certain mystique about something that is obsolete and ultimately non-existent. The human being is what he is, in all circumstances, for better or worse. This is what makes his spiritual and emotional wealth and his interest.
You take commissions for you work, but are there any plans to open a Citron Rouge shop in the future? I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in prints of you work.
Some people asked me about this in the past, but I didn’t find my work sophisticated enough to be for sale. Now I'm more pleased and satisfied with it and I'm thinking about the opening of a prints shop. By the way, I just recently opened a postcards shop with my friend Amaktine, about our collaborations in a totally grotesque artistic universe. You can find them at Les Petites Filles Modèles (above). Also I regularly sell some OOAK (one-of-a-kind pieces) that are fully customized.
Thank you to everyone for reading this interview with Céline, who graciously gave us her time and allowed us to use her images. Keep up with her work on her blog, Pretty Decay (NSFW), and her Facebook page, Reddish Fetish. I hope you all enjoyed reading the interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it! It will be business as usual for next Doll Break, so remember to send those tips and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them in the comments.
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