by Dilpreet BhullarSep 17, 2022
To enter an art space to see the fabric installations by the French-Canadian artist Jannick Deslauriers is like taking steps close to experiencing cinema on apocalypse. The dysfunctional automobile, shipwreck, dilapidated building, broken structures of the telephone tower, rendered in a fine web of black threads at once could be seen as visual transportation of the objects from the scenes of a catastrophe to the pure white cube space. This interplay between the object of decay and the white walls of the gallery accentuates the experiential interaction with the works created by Deslauriers. The human prompted apocalypse, to which sculptures hint, is very much rooted in the current time in which we live in. The viewer fails to put the thoughts on - the destruction stemmed from the geopolitical upheaval, economic crisis, Anthropocene concerns - to ease while looking at the work.
In an interview with STIR, Deslauriers talks about this conspicuous presence of decay and dystopia in her works and what drew her attention to such visual representations of the acts of abandonment. “I am interested in decay in the sense that it speaks of traces and layering. Excavation sites have always fascinated me, for example, because they reveal, through fragments, traces of the past. I am trying to emphasise this idea in my work by constructing objects that appear in a stage of disappearance," she says. The research that goes into the making of the sculptures is rooted in, “the collective imagination and memory archived online to create sculptures that would imitate a ruin or what is left from a past existence. The multi-layered image sources contribute to an aesthetic ecosystem that never closes on one memory or site.”
The long strands of the textile making the skin of the sculptures give a tangible reality to the conceptual thoughts. Moreover, when the structures of the sculptures, which are otherwise popularly made of hard-bearing material, are given a touch of the raw fragility with a web of threads, a suggestion to the inevitability of time and vulnerability does not go missing.
Her interest to use translucent materials such as tulle or silk date could be traced to her days as an undergraduate. Deslauriers informs, “Back then, I was interested in transparencies as a possibility for speaking about, traces from the past or memory. Such fabric allows me to construct diaphanous structures that can feel spectral.” If on one hand, the hyper visibility of the digital images floating online has soared the eyes, on the other hand, their dematerialisation has recreated the aura of palimpsest. The artist further adds, "Although highly detailed and imbued with certain realism, my sculptures are never an exact reproduction of a specific object but rather a generalised version of the latter, that is an ethereal and fictionalised assemblage inspired by digital archive. I, therefore, oppose to the momentary virtual nature of images a carefully constructed ‘ectoplasm’, which will remain indefinitely ‘suspended’ in a concrete space.”
The life-size sculpture Sentence, Souffle et linceul is a full-scale simulation of a ruined car. An elaborate work, put together with the yards of aluminium mesh, tulle, silk and thread, evidently talks about the politics of commodity and the flow of the supply chain. The fleeting appearance of the fabric sculpture does not resist the temptation to blend with its original form. As an artist who would describe her process as being very similar to clothes making while thinking of Sentence, Souffle Et Linceul, Deslauriers admits, “I started with a pretty exhaustive research of web-culled images of drowned cars, wrecked cars, exploded cars and so on.” The tactile quality of the sculptures that could be mistaken as ephemeral at first glance emerges from the material the artist finds. From here she imagines or designs her own version, “I make paper patterns for all the parts, cut and sew the different sections together. Slowly, the sculpture appears, as I assemble all the sections together. For this specific piece, I had to cover it in the snow then burn the textile surface with a gas torch. As the snow melted down, the burning produced a texture imitating rust or burned metal,” elucidates Deslauriers.
The sculptural installations for the visual artist carry a certain sense of an imaginary 3D blueprint. The personal proclivity towards the idea of creating a space that has an apparitional or illusionary dimension remains at the core of Deslauriers’ works. The transparent textile materials lend an impression of partial erasure to her sculptures. Subsequently, it “confers them with a ghostliness that is suggestive of certain humanity.”
The process of fusing or maybe stitching different periods of time within the same object articulates a form of archaeology. If Deslauriers has to indicate a singular takeaway after watching her works, she edifies, “I want to say that I leave the conclusion open. I like when art is evocative rather than being a straight answer or statement.”