Interview with artist Vicky Sabourin
I wanted to meet Vicky Sabourin to find out more about her work that curator Marie-Christine Dubé selected for the galerie atelier b show. I was curious to know how Vicky would describe her projects, how Colts raisin had come to be and how galerie atelier b fit into the process.Here are some thoughts on her practice, with photos snapped by Marie-Claude Brault during the interview.
The exhibition Colts raisin is presented at the galerie atelier b until November 3, 2019.
Clark and St-Cuthbert Corner
I climb the narrow staircase to the studio, where Vicky is waiting for me, all smiles. We’ve been trying to meet for a while now, which has been complicated due to both our busy schedules, and that makes this visit all the more special. The space itself is full of inspiration: the big windows, the natural light from the skylights falling onto the two work tables belonging to Vicky and her studio mate, her husband Christopher Boyne. Artist studios always have a certain effect on me, this feeling of stepping into an artist’s world and accessing their creative inner workings. The little boxes they open in the middle of a story, the materials strewn about, unfinished but with promise, and all the archived, disassembled and packed up projects that lay in view of the work in progress. Artist studios are places where objects come to life and the moments spent here are generously given, and precious.
The influence of spaces
Vicky has been working in this inspiring space for several years now, where renowned visual artist Edmund Alleyn. once worked. Wishing to keep the building for its original purpose, the family rents to several artists, including Vicky. I asked if working in this particular studio has impacted her work. I asked this question because when Catherine and I set up shop in Mile End, where a family had made hats since 1953, and the history of the place has definitely impacted our work.
Vicky tells me that after her first exhibition since she’d been working here, when she looked at the photos, she noticed several parallels between the colours and materials used in her work and Alleyn’s. And same goes for installation: there were unintended parallels, as if the studio was imbued with the previous practice “as though (she had) absorbed the essence of his work subconsciously.”
Similarly, galerie atelier b, located in a heritage house in Old Montréal, probably has a significant impact on the projects exhibited there. I asked her about this. “I like to visit a space beforehand. Since I do in situ installation, where my work will be exhibited is really important. Visiting helps me tailor the project to the place. I take the white cubes of galleries that are intended to be neutral and recreate spaces. But in this case, galerie atelier b already had a life of its own: the walls have a patina, they’re old and worn, and there’s a certain smell and atmosphere already there. I found the space was a good fit for the project and that it brought unexpected little additions. It felt perfect to embrace the galerie, as a third kind of encounter. There’s also this idea of it being a secret—a place you need to be invited into, a bit like the items you can order in a restaurant that aren’t on the menu, and I find this gives access to the work in an interesting way.”
Telling a personal story through nature
Nature is everywhere in Vicky’s work, from landscapes to flora and fauna. We find these storytelling elements and characters incarnated by animals, who seem to be telling us very personal, sometimes difficult, things. The fantastical element and soft materials like wool felt, fur and other textiles lend a softness to difficult subjects. These gentle mediums blend with fiction and performance, allowing Vicky to use fable-like formats to recount the autobiographical, as she places herself at the heart of her work in a highly vulnerable way.
In Colts raisin, nature is elsewhere. White worms and black snakes tell us about death through sculpted earth, while lilies in a vase whither over the course of the exhibition, in a performance without need of explanation. There’s no performance in this work, but we find vulnerability here too, though in a more intimate way, as the project explores family and grief. In the cabinet of curiosities that is Colts raisin, the use of porcelain lends a fragility and hardness to the familial world. Vicky’s presence is strong here, without need for performance.
An archaeological excavation
After her uncle’s death, Vicky volunteered to sort through and clear his things out of the house, which now stands vacant waiting to be sold. The task turned out to be an excavation, as Vicky discovered a story told chronologically through layers of uncovered objects. Memories, everyday objects and strange collections amassed as a vast cabinet of curiosities.
In Vicky’s workshop we find the same possibility of digging into the past. The textures stacked high are likely in chronological order, same as the growing number of boxes filled with objects and scraps of materials. Certain spots teem with life, the objects there telling a story. Her projects encompass different practices and sometimes come together within the overarching corpus to create one large project. Parts of one work are pulled into the next, creating a narrative thread that can be found throughout. As I come to think of an artist studio is a living space that recounts its own history, I realize what a strong presence galerie atelier b has, with a story that will always be told in part by the artists exhibiting there.
Colts raisin is the first chapter of Ça pisse de partout. I’m very excited to see where the project goes, and curious as to whether I’ll find traces of galerie atelier b within it.
In the meantime, Vicky’s work will be presented at the Fairy Tales group exhibition at Mount Allison University’s Owens Art Gallery curated by Anne Koval, in January 2020.