Engramme is an organisation in Eastern Canada which for over forty years has devoted itself to the promotion of original and innovative printmaking. As part of the Society of Scottish Artists' policy of encouraging cross-cultural exchange and collaborations, a partnership with Engramme was set up, offering Canadian artists the opportunity to exhibit in the society’s annual exhibition. A reciprocal arrangement provides the opportunity for a Scotland-based artist to exhibit in Engramme's contemporary gallery in Quebec.
Artists on both sides of the Atlantic are invited to apply for this much sought-after exchange with submissions judged by experienced artists in each organisation.
This year's invited artist is Andréanne Gagnon, a photographer and printmaker from Quebec. Andréanne graduated with a BFA in Visual and Media Arts from Quebec's Laval University and has exhibited widely in Canada and overseas, most recently in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
Her work focuses on the boundaries and intersections between printmaking, photography and drawing, often using both traditional and digital techniques in the making of a single piece. Detailed and precise arrangements of three-dimensional work, unusual in printmaking, are often used to explore the way texture and form interrelate with one another, inviting a meditation from the viewer.
We were delighted to welcome Andréanne to Scotland to exhibit at OPEN and to find out more about her work.
Tell us what got you into art – how you got started – what first excited you?
I’ve been involved in the arts as far back as I can remember, from painting to dancing to playing the guitar. As an adult, I’ve become more interested in film and video, and visual art, both because I’m fascinated by the creative process and because I wanted to make art that inspired reflection.
The path I’ve taken feels like the logical and necessary continuation of past endeavours. I’m endlessly curious, which drives me to keep pushing my art practice in new directions. I find there’s just something magical and fascinating in the notion of undertaking a new creative project. You never know where it will take you, what the outcome will be. And there’s always something magical when you finally get to the end and see the results.
My creative practice has also changed my relationship to time. When I’m silk-screening, I have no choice but to slow down and be mindful of each individual step. It’s a meditative, deeply relaxing process.
My chosen career path also entails a different way of thinking about life generally: you’re always swimming upstream, slightly outside mainstream modes of production and efficiency.
Where do you make your work?
I mostly work in production studios at artist-run centres—most often Engramme, a printmaking studio, and VU PHOTO, a photography space. Both are part of the Meduse arts complex in my hometown, Quebec City. Meduse is a cooperative, and also the first institution that offered me the opportunity to work under professional conditions and show my work, after art school, so I feel a deep respect and close personal attachment to the space.
More recently, I’ve had a few creative residencies, including printmaking residencies, in Canada and abroad. I find getting out of my house is essential to be truly productive and inspired. I also work better in isolation. Residencies are ideal since they provide a period of intense creative focus.
What are your main influences and sources of inspiration?
I like creating works that straddle the line between artistic disciplines, by combining printmaking and photography for example. Design is a particular source of inspiration in my art practice. Whether I’m working on images or sculptures, I always strive to achieve a sense of harmony. Of course, I’m also inspired by what I see around me: in nature and in everyday life.
Another increasingly important influence is textiles. I find textiles inspiring on so many levels—aesthetic, formal, and symbolic. I integrate textile patterns in my print productions, using repetition and accumulation to create new spatial elements. I’m always working to understand my surroundings. I’ve learned to let go, and accept that I can’t control every facet of my practice. I’d say I’m very “permeable” to my environment, so the sources of inspiration are limitless: virtually anything at all can inspire me to create.
Is there some piece of advice/ information/knowledge that you’d like to share?
I feel that I still have so much to learn—about myself, the art world, and the artist’s work. But I think that what has been most beneficial to my career so far has is going out and finding new inspiration, taking opportunities to create abroad.
I did a creative residency at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity last spring, and also took part the Jeux de la Francophonie in Côte d’Ivoire last summer. Both creative experiences yielded rich personal and cultural encounters that gave my creative process a new direction that stuck throughout the year, while also giving me the time, tools and space I need to create. In hindsight, it is the kind of experience I wish I enjoyed earlier, and one I’d recommend to everyone!
More generally, to make it as a practicing artist takes a great deal of patience and determination: those are the two most important qualities you need to persist and have a lasting career as an artist.
Tell us about you are working on at present.
I’m currently pursuing visual research I began earlier this year at a creative residency at L’Imprimerie, a Montreal artist-run centre, where I’m playing with moiré patterns of a type usually seen as undesirable in printmaking. I’m also working to develop the installation aspect of my art practice. I work with very long sheets of paper: first I screen-print them, and then I cut them down to size and make multiple cuts that let the light through. One day I’d like to show this work at an individual exhibition, where the work will fully inhabit the space, and have room to breathe. I also plan to do a creative residency in Ireland next spring, to develop my photography practice, and especially the use of large formats to explore new installations techniques that recall the feel of wide-open natural spaces.
Andréanne Gagnon's work is currently on show at OPEN - SSA & VAS Together at the Royal Scottish Academy until 8 March 2018.