Mylène Viggers: Nature as Muse
Words by: Tanya Singh
Photo Credit: Thomas Ang (@thepeepingthomphotography)
With bold and instinctive brush strokes, Mylène’s paintings are an ode to the nature that surrounds her.
Nestled among the lush greenery of Mount Faber in Southern Singapore sits a small cluster of colonial homes, familiarly known as black and white houses, named so due to the contrast between the dark timbers used in the beams of the houses and their bright whitewashed walls. In one of these homes lives en plein-air (term used for artists who paint outdoors, from life) artist, Mylène Viggers, with her husband Charles, two children, Joséphine and Edward, Juan the kingfisher, Max the family’s favorite monitor lizard, and the occasional cobras. “This house, with all its light, contact with nature, bird songs, and beautiful scents, is my daily dose of inspiration,” says the artist.
A painting of the black and white house where Mylène stays.
Mylène grew up in the South of France surrounded by a melting pot of cultures in the form of family. Her German mother met her French father in Spain, where Mylène was born. After finishing her schooling in France, Mylène moved to London to begin her career as a lawyer. She also met her husband there. During her tenure at the law firm, she was given the opportunity to work in Paris. What started as a brief romantic escapade for her and Charles, who had followed her to Paris, soon became home. Marriage and the children followed, and they ended up spending 13 years in the city of love.
“I was always surrounded by people who had travelled far and wide. There was naturally always this aspiration in me to continue the family history of travelling, and so, when this opportunity to move to Singapore came along because of Charles’ work, we couldn’t refuse,” shared Mylène. They moved to Singapore in late 2019 and managed to get settled into their new home just before the Covid-19 outbreak. “We didn’t know black and white houses existed before we got to Singapore. But as soon as we visited one, we were in awe. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity of building beautiful memories in the space with our children,” she said.
Mylène in her home studio overlooking the lush greenery surrounding her home.
Even while practicing law, Mylène was always painting. She had attended classes at the Ecole du Louvre, the Arts Décoratifs, and various art studios while in Paris. In fact, art has been a part of her life ever since she was a young toddler. “My grandfather had built a two-sided easel so that my mother and him could paint the same scenes together. I accompanied them as a toddler while the two of them created magic on their canvases,” shared Mylène. The move to Singapore provided her the chance to finally take the step towards becoming a full-time artist. “Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a lawyer. It was very exciting – cutting deals and litigation. It was a different life. But moving to Singapore was the opportunity for a complete change,” she added.
A typical day’s painting would involve Mylène venturing into the jungle with her portable easel to find the perfect spot in which to lose herself. “Painting for me is like meditation – it’s a very unique and intimate experience. You see so much when you spend time in nature – the array of exotic colors that jump at you, the extravagant shapes of the foliage, or the way the palm fronds sway with the wind graciously inviting you in. I try to capture all this beauty on my canvas,” said the artist.
Working with oil paints, she always starts off with a simple base of shocking pink before carefully building her composition layer by layer. “The technique of layering in oil painting allow you to create artworks that gradually reveal themselves to the viewers. You see something different every time you look at a painting,” shared Mylène. A single painting can take up to 20 hours across a number of sittings to finish. This also means that she is often working on several paintings at the same time. Mylène’s artworks are also distinctive in their vivid use of contrasting colors in the finishing touches and outlines. “For me, the favorite part of working on a piece is adding the final touches and contours, bringing the visual to life. The shocking pink base that peeks through complements the lively greens of my palette and adds an element of surprise in the work,” she added.
Dahlias No. 7 in a custom frame by Mylène Viggers.
Although she only recently began her journey as a professional artist, Mylène has built an extensive portfolio of artworks and an impressive resumé of exhibitions across the island. She has regularly shared her love of plein-air painting through workshops in the Botanic Gardens, supported by the French Chamber of Commerce and the French Embassy. She is currently also working on a collaborative project with a local artist, supported by the National Parks Board of Singapore and the National Arts Council. “I look forward to travelling more and more around Southeast Asia with my suitcase full of art supplies,” she said when asked about her future plans.