March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Caroline Cloutier

The second awardee-in-focus as part of our Meet the Artists blog series as we approach the March Mostra is Caroline Cloutier, our Québec Resident. We spoke to Caroline about her practice, the installations that she has produced for the exhibition, and how her time spent in Rome has influenced her work.

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Caroline Cloutier is interested in the reflective function that exists in specular and photographic images, and in their ability to evoke virtual spaces. Using mirrors and large-scale photographic prints, her installations deconstruct exhibition spaces or reveal them as a mise en abyme. Sculpted with new hollows and multiple surfaces, the spaces of her interventions become the locus of a truly upended reality, a virtual space of indeterminate boundaries into which the body is inscribed by mental projection.

Can you start by briefly describing what you will be showing in March Mostra?

For this exhibition, I have produce two different installations. One is a very large-scale photographic installation and it will interact with the architecture of the gallery. The second piece will be a small intervention in the gallery corridor.

Do you always keep the gallery space in mind while you are working – both for the March Mostra and for your other shows?

My art installations are always site-specific, and the same goes for these two installations for the Mostra. Usually, the way I work is to go into the [exhibition] space and I have to take time to understand how the architecture and the space work, and how the body feels in the space. After that I can use some of the architectural details: I photograph them and I use them as a trompe l’oeil, so the main idea is always to combine the virtual space and the real space. This is what I’m doing for the two Mostra pieces: they are installations but they are also images, and the resulting images depend very much on the architecture. I will use images of the floor, the ceiling and the walls, and duplicate these elements.

Can you explain the process behind selecting a space to work with?

It is not so much that I choose the space, rather the space determines what I want to do with the architecture, because I play with reflection. For example, for an installation I might place a mirror in front of an architectural detail to reflect it, so if I want my pieces to interact with the architecture and create an illusion of perspective, I have to know exactly where I’m going to work.

How has being at the BSR, or more generally in Rome, influenced your work? Has there been a site or museum or gallery that has made a significant impression on you?

Many sites in Rome have been inspiring for me, but Villa Farnesina is one that made a particular impression. It was very interesting, because a prime attraction of the Villa is the wall paintings which play with perspective and illusion and trompe l’oeil. The art piece is the room itself and its wall paintings, without needing to put other paintings or sculptures or furniture in the room, and for me it was very inspiring to see both how the artists played with perspective and the anamorphose that comes through the paintings when you move through the room. For me, it was a very immersive experience. Although it is very different from what I am doing now, being able to see the artists’ process of entering a room and asking ‘what can I create as a picture that will become an extension of the real space?’, and to see that they had been working this way even in the Renaissance period, was very inspiring.

Can you tell me a bit about these photographs that you have up in your studio? Have these been taken in Rome?
Yes, I can talk about this photo-montage of these four photographs I took in the Chiesa S. Carlino alle Quattro Fontane [first visited on a tour led by Assistant Director Tom True].

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Photos by Caroline Cloutier

This is in the crypta – I was so amazed by how all the spaces interrelate in this crypta. You have this central room, and outside of it you have these little niches and openings which let you see inside the central room. What you can see from those openings, the construction of it as you can see on the picture, is that it is so perfect. You really can see how the space was mathematically constructed and I was amazed by how it creates a perfect composition. I just took a picture of the openings to see how the space imbricates and how it is harmonious and perfect. This is a study for me, it is not a photographic artwork project. After the tour, I obtained permission and returned and worked in the crypta for about two hours and took many photographs, and these four photos capture a sense of what for me were the most striking observations in this space.

So, say you are going to see a site or a gallery or museum – do you take some pictures on your phone then go back with your camera if a place makes an impression on you?

Yes, I never carry my camera around with me so usually I will revisit a site with my camera. I will visit sites without having any expectations, and I can take photos with my phone but if a place makes a strong impression then I don’t even need to do that – I know that it is somewhere to go back to. And if after a couple of days I still have the place in my mind, I know that I need to go back and take my camera and see what is happening there.

Do you feel that after working here for three months your practice has changed, or has the way in which you approach you work changed?

It may change afterwards, I think. As we are talking now, I have been here two months and this is my first time in Rome and in Italy, and my first real contact with all those masterpieces of painting and architecture. So far I’m processing all this and I feel that it affects a lot of things in the way I’m thinking and the way I want to create, but for now it is too soon to say. Maybe for the mostra what has changed is that the two pieces of work that I’m showing are a lot more about anamorphose, which has not been such an important part of my work before. This is a slow process, but of course I have been moved by many of the new things I have discovered and it will change how I will work afterwards.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your work or about the mostra?

There are so many things to say about the subject, the themes around my work, where I want to head… I have recently thought that I would like to try out collages. But I haven’t had the time yet – the last two months have already gone so quickly! I went to the Olympic neighbourhood recently and took many photos of the buildings that were really interesting to me – the forms, the shapes, how the sunlight falls on the blocks, so I now have many photos of this area and I don’t know what will happen with that, maybe I will do a photo collage with those motifs. But because it is new, I don’t know how to work with it… maybe now that I have made the installations for the mostra, this is more the experimental part that I can begin to work on without the pressure of showing these new ideas in an exhibition yet. And maybe this is how my practice will change, because so far all my photomontages are done on the computer, and I really feel that I need to work more with paper and making things by hand.

Maybe that can be your next BSR residency!

It’s maybe something I will take back with me to Montreal and work on in my Montreal studio. I have a lot of new material now, which is great!


Caroline’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson.

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