For more than a year, we have been lucky enough to collaborate with the artist Celia Perrin Sidarous. She accompanies us in the workshop with the photos of our products and our visual presentation in the shop. Sometimes she has fun embellishing our windows and helping us with the composition of objects and installations.
I was visiting Celia's studio building last fall with photographer Jean-Michael Seminaro. We were going to document a meeting with Sophia Borowska et Teresa Dorey, who have exhibited together at galerie atelier b. As Celia was preparing her next exhibition, we took the opportunity to document her studio and her work.
The exhibition Flotsam finally took place from February 11 to March 13 at the Bradley Ertaskiran Gallery, which represents her. We took an afternoon off from the studio to visit it together. I asked Celia to answer some of my questions at the studio in between projects, an unusual time when we went from colleagues to interviewer/interviewee.
Celia defines herself as an image artist. Her approach integrates film, both for her photographs, which she produces in medium and large format, and for the moving images, the vehicle for her next major project, also captured on film. Celia holds a BFA and an MFA from Concordia University, where she developed a specialty in photography.
Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the AGO - Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions since 2009, including The Archivist at the McCord Museum in 2019 and this year's exhibition at the Bradley Ertaskiran, representing her.
Flotsam, or beauty in the margins
In her latest exhibition, Celia is interested in "everything that floats around the work, indirectly, but specifically at the same time". The title refers to a nautical term, and refers to a specific type of floating debris, not intentionally thrown overboard, but rather resulting from a shipwreck or accident.
To create the works presented at the gallery, she revisited her photographic archives of the past ten years, "all the images that are taken on a daily basis with a telephone or digital camera, which do not represent the work of the studio, but which support it in a somewhat invisible way. I wanted to look at this periphery and bring it back to the centre" of his work. From this archaeology of her archives, she drew 400 images that she printed and then cut out, and which were added to her bank of potential images.
Playing with the ephemeral
To construct her photographic collages, Celia uses a technique that she has developed over time: "All the assemblages are ephemeral and do not exist other than through photography. In the case of the exhibition, for example, they are like collages, except that it is the camera that makes them, in the sense that I assemble the elements in a very basic way, there is nothing that is permanent.»
The objects are thus brought together in a transitory manner: the form of the work and the associations evolving over time, with the silver photograph as the only trace of their union. For Flotsam, this process took place over a month, a period during which Celia mobilized all her intuition and memory, since the results are only revealed when the film is also revealed. She then switched to digital printing to take advantage of the greater flexibility in terms of formats, surfaces and types of printing.
Revealing without explaining
Over time, Celia implies a greater degree of vulnerability in her work. While for the McCord Museum's 2019 exhibition The Archivist, the artist selected and assembled elements from the museum's storeroom to create her own body of work, the past two years have marked a desire for Celia to incorporate personal material into her productions, both images and objects, which she creates in ceramics in particular. "I bring back my own images to cut out, I also started to make my own objects and incorporate them. So I'm adding another language to the one that already existed, because for some time I've been working quite a bit with found images, but also with found objects. I think there was a desire in there to undo and redo.»
When I saw her exhibition, I was touched by the way she revealed himself through his photos: I felt that he was sharing his intimacy. "It's true that this exhibition was much more personal, but at the same time, I reveal myself to a certain extent. It's like placing clues: there's not necessarily a clear answer that says: I am this or I am that.» It's important for Celia not to impose a way of interpreting her images and to let the poetry she's crafting make its way into the viewer.
The choice of words is therefore paramount for Celia, although the titles of her works most often come to her at the end of the creative process. She sees these as additional opportunities to inject meaning without dictating it. "I have a preference for texts that will accompany the work without explaining or dissecting it.» In this sense, Danielle St-Amour's text introducing Flotsam illustrates how text gives power to Celia's work without showing the strings: "The track is neither static nor an archive - rather, it is a combination of arrangements, pressures and intuitions, inflected by time.».
At the same time that Flotsam was taking place at the Bradley Ertaskiran Gallery, Celia's studio mate, Marie-Michelle Deschamps was also presenting a solo show, Oasis. The two also decided to combine their talents to create three collaborative works, entitled Bouquet, which combined Celia's photographic practice with Marie-Michelle's enamel work. They seemed like little bridges between their worlds, which they rightly presented in the gallery's transitional spaces.
The process was a source of comfort and joy for both artists, especially in these confined pandemic times. "It was a really good way to support each other at the moment, let's say. Because we share the studio, there's already a conversation that's been going on for a while between our two practices, common interests. This is the first time we've collaborated, but it wasn't the first time we talked about it.»
After a year of the pandemic, she was able to see the thirst of people for art: even though there was no opening due to health constraints, there was a steady stream of people to her show, which coincided with the reopening of museums and galleries. "I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to show my work at this time, because everything has been shifted, everyone's programming schedules are upside down.» I understand exactly what she means: in these strange times, everything becomes more precious, more rare. You savour things that would have been less important in another context. "It did me a lot of good to work on this project," concludes Celia.
The visit of Celia's exhibition was also very good for us: it was so good to be together outside of the studio, to take in the beauty! Celia's work inspires us, as much by her research in composition and colors as by the softness that emanates from her works. To learn more about her sustained creative process, which leaves room for intuition and encounters between the elements, makes us appreciate her differently.
Thank you Celia for putting your sensitive eye on our work and for putting a bit of your world and your thoughts into it.
Photos by Jean-Michael Seminaro.
Thanks to Maryse Boyce for editorial assistance.