Jewellery artist Gabrielle Desmarais launched her exhibition Les Espaces-Satellites at Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h on June 10. Through an intriguing installation that invites visitors to modulate their movements to navigate the exhibition space, Gabrielle’s jewellery blends into the landscape like shadows, debris or fragments of memories. In this interview, she shares with us the keys to her creative process, and what inspired this fascinating exhibition.
Your latest series, presented in the exhibition Les Espaces-Satellites, is inspired by physical places and environments, some real and others imagined. Do you have a particular relationship with the environment in which you evolve? And how does it influence your practice?
In fact, a satellite-space can indeed consist of a physical place, such as a refuge where one can rest, but with this work, I approach it mainly as a state where one gets lost or finds oneself (love, passion, mourning), or as a feeling linked to a human being (a reassuring back or a comforting hand). These ‘spaces’ revolve around us, around our hearts and heads. Whether we choose to settle in them or not, they have a significant impact on who we are and shape us in some way. Jewellery has always been my favourite tool for releasing my strongest emotions. This year, as for many, was rich in these great emotions: Les Espaces-Satellites is therefore a gentle catharsis through which visitors can let themselves be carried away by the installation and have their own interpretation of the pieces found along the way.
In the exhibition, your jewellery is presented in a very special way, in a decor that you have entirely created. How did you come to choose this type of installation?
Firstly, I felt that it was important for the tables on which the pieces were displayed to be lower than usual (i.e. 2 feet off the ground), for two reasons. First, since my initial motivation was based on a metaphor between exterior AND interior landscapes/spaces, this distance from the pieces of jewellery gives the impression of a bird’s eye view over an imaginary country, old ruins, amazing gardens where one would like to wander around and get lost for a while. Then, once this first contact has been made, the visitor is invited, in order to better see and understand the jewellery on display, to bend down and get closer to the pieces, which are hidden on either side of the glass elements. I believe that this gesture provides an opportunity for intimacy, for a childlike connection to play (and to toys) that allows us to interpret stories and images directly from the heart, without censorship.
As for the choice of glass, it is the result of a simple equation: a love affair with the richness and possibilities of the material, a drastic shortage of coloured plexiglass due to a certain pandemic and my great fascination for the immersive installations of Olafur Eliasson and the work of Lubna Chowdary!
Is the installation part of your ideation process from the start or is it defined once the works have taken shape?
Right from the start! It is important for me that the installation is in perfect harmony with the pieces, which means that it should not only serve as a “placeholder” or as a base/display for the jewellery. I want the jewellery to be part of a big picture where all parts are co-dependent, where the glass elements would be empty without the jewellery and vice-versa… So I usually design the overall concept and then create the jewellery as part of it. In this case, some of the pieces included in the exhibition were made in 2019, so I integrated them as best I could, creating custom glass elements for them.
How does your creative process unfold? Do you work directly with the material or from drawings and sketches?
I like to start with drawings ( although they end up being horrible drawings! Haha!) to get the momentum going. Then I let myself be carried away by the process: sometimes a design is less interesting in 3D than on paper, so I alter it. Otherwise, some mistakes can also happen along the way: I surf on the unexpected and adjust my designs accordingly. I never restart a piece of jewellery. I like to think that the piece of jewellery already “knows” what its end result will be, so I try as best I can to remain flexible and attentive to the options that arise during the process. Trust the process as they say…
Your work, although it is always made with precious metals and stones, often goes beyond the technical limits traditionally imposed by jewellery making. What drives you to work in this way?
Honestly, although my pieces ultimately end up crooked, weathered and covered with solder and other alterations, I have an unbounded respect for the tradition of silversmithing, forging and jewellery making. The impression that technical limits are being challenged is a result of the simple fact that I want to maintain complete artistic freedom regardless of the traditional techniques that I have learned, which leads me to explore new avenues and invent unorthodox ways of working in order to achieve my goals 🙂
There are several recurring motifs in your work: altered geometric shapes, eroded surfaces, accumulations or repetitions of elements and details, and of course the predominance of the colour black. Is there anything in particular that determines these aesthetic choices?
Basically, my fondness of graphic lines influences me a lot in my conception of forms and has led me to choose to make my pieces black: my jewellery pieces then become “drawings” or “lines” that I can freely arrange in a space to create a whole. Despite the impression of chaos that the installation presented at the gallery may suggest, I really like minimalism, simplicity and the search for pure and efficient forms. Black allows me to achieve the drawing I am aiming for, in 3D.
As far as worn-out surfaces and accumulation are concerned: damaged and altered objects, which demonstrate their life and use, always touch me. The memories of them and the beauty that emerges from them despite the scratches and imperfections are very inspiring to me and this is what I try to share through my jewellery. Embroidery and stones come naturally to me as a way of reclaiming Time, recovering it and paying it a final tribute.
Cover image – Mérida Anderson
Jewellery photos – Anthony McLean
Other images – Courtesy of the artist