Catherine Granche and Marie-Eve G. Castonguay, both jewellery artists, started working on a collaborative project almost two years ago, culminating in the exhibition Paysage de l’intime. The exhibition, which has been touring since January 2020, will open on November 6 at Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h. It is curated by Marie-Eve and Catherine, and presents their respective work as well as that of six other artists. We asked them a few questions about the exhibition and their work as curators.
Paysage de l’intime brings together the work of eight artists from across Canada: Bridget Catchpole (BC), Marie-Eve G. Castonguay (QC), Catherine Granche (QC), Clarissa Long (BC), K. Claire MacDonald (NS), Pamela Ritchie (NS), Catherine Sheedy (QC) and Kye-Yeon Son (NS). This exhibition explores the relationship to landscape and nature. A source of inspiration, landscape leads artists to questions of provenance, environmental impact and the power dynamic between humans and nature. As a material to be transformed, landscape and its elements become raw matter, used as a medium of expression.
How did the idea of this collaboration come about?
Marie-Eve: First of all, we didn’t really know each other before embarking on this project, or at least not personally.
Catherine: We admired each other’s work. And I also admired Marie-Eve’s involvement in the jewellery community. Initially, we wanted to do something together and share ideas, because we have a common interest in nature, in the organisation of gardens and landscape. It all started as we were discussing the fact that several artists can work on the same theme while obtaining completely different results, whether it be in terms of aesthetics, choice of materials or language.
Marie-Eve: Although the exhibition is not built around our work, our pieces were a starting point for developing the theme of the exhibition. Not only do Catherine and I explore the concepts of nature, gardening and harvesting in different formal and visual ways, but we also treat them differently on a conceptual level. From a common starting point, there is a panoply of ways of appropriating the same subject that are specific to our individuality as artists and as beings evolving within a given environment.
Left: Catherine Granche, Nature déhiscente, cerises 1, 2019-2020. Stoneware, oxydized sterling silver
Right: Marie-Eve G. Castonguay. Jardin no. 16, 2018. Sterling silver, paper, wood, pigments.
Is this your first curatorial experience?
Catherine: Yes, for me it is. And I hope to pursue this path in my work as an artist.
Marie-Eve: For my part, yes and no! I had already set up several artistic outreach projects, but never as a full-fledged curator. For me, in a curatorial project, the exhibition becomes a work of art in itself, and pieces by each artist are the material to be used to compose that work. I was very interested in this approach and it is an avenue that I had not yet had the opportunity to explore. With this project, I found it interesting to be able to develop a voice as a curator.
How did you decide on the theme of the exhibition?
Catherine: It was decided during the course of our discussions. Nature, the environment, landscape and gardens were already an integral part of our work, and the idea of looking at the relationship to landscape came about naturally. Things became connected, intertwined and built up as we selected the artists and the works. Everything developed in an organic and holistic way.
Left: K. Claire MacDonald. Looking Out, Then and Now, 2019. Copper, brass, paint, wood.
What were your intentions in carrying out this project?
Marie-Eve: Personally, there’s something very dear to my heart in promoting the work of other artists and, more generally, in promoting contemporary jewellery in Canada. We need to stimulate the community. If nothing is going on, people want to do nothing. But one thing leads to another: the more projects and events like this one are initiated, the more people want to get involved in the contemporary jewellery community and start developing projects of their own. It’s a spinning wheel, and sometimes you have to give it a little kick!
Catherine: There can never be too many exhibitions, no matter whether they present a large number of artists under a general theme, or whether they are conceived according to a specific theme with a reduced selection of artists. There is room for everything, and it is especially important to maintain a dynamic community, especially at this time.
How did you select the artists?
Marie-Eve: We were specifically looking for artists whose work revolves around nature and landscape. We also tried to create a dialogue between a variety of different approaches.
Catherine: We recognise a familiar sensitivity in the work of these artists – sensitivity to landscape, to harvesting, to conservation, to capturing time, impressions and spatial organisations linked to nature. The artists we have chosen, while working on the theme of nature, use languages and aesthetics that are completely different from our own.
Left: Bridget Catchpole. A Burrow of Pearls, 2019. Sterling silver, 24k gold plating, stainless steel, fresh water cultured pearls, fishing line, resin.
Right: Clarissa Long. Valley, 2018. Polystyrene, bass wood, steel.
Why did you decide to include yourself in this selection?
Marie-Eve: As mentioned earlier, our own work constituted the starting point for our research. It could have resulted in a duo exhibition, but what interested us most was the diversity of approaches in dealing with the same theme. I think it is important to consider a plurality of curatorial approaches, and perhaps it is more common within the craft field than in the visual arts for curators to invite other artists to exhibit work alongside their own. But these different approaches are all equally valid, and in this case the exhibition project emanates from our work and our approach, so it was obvious that some of our work should be included in the exhibition in the same way as that of other artists.
What will you take away from this experience, and what were the challenges encountered?
Marie-Eve: It was a lot of work, but that was no surprise! One thing that shocked me a bit was to realise how difficult it is to fund this kind of project. Basically, there aren’t really any opportunities for craft exhibitions like this one at the institutional level. These projects must therefore emerge from the artistic community itself, but when they are initiated by artists, they are not eligible with funding agencies. All the weight therefore remains on the shoulders of the arts community. We were fortunate to be able to count on the support of the École de joaillerie de Montréal and the galleries we worked with to accompany us through all of this despite the absence of support from government agencies.
Catherine: As for the way the exhibition was received by the artists and galleries presenting the exhibition, it was absolutely wonderful. Everyone accepted the invitation enthusiastically and the help and encouragement we received proved to us that there was room in our community for this kind of initiative.
Marie-Eve: It was definitely a nice sign of trust from the artists and galleries. There is something extremely rewarding in carrying out projects like this one, and in knowing that artists not only trust you on an organizational level, but that they also trust your vision.
Catherine: In addition to the exhibitions, the development of the catalogue has been crucial and we are proud to be able to leave a lasting impression of this project!
The exhibition Paysage de l’intime is presented from November 6-20, 2020, at Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h