Gregoire Ferland is something of an underground phenomenon in the Quebec sculpture scene. Largely unrecognized by the museum and public gallery culture of Quebec he has nevertheless produced a strong body of work over the years. Early on in his career, he made performances with the percussionist Guy Nadon on metal plaques at the Foufounes Electriques (1988), Galerie Optica (1989) in Montreal, has maintained and encouraged that performative aspect in his sculpture throughout his career. Over the years, he has exhibited in Columbia, Mexico, New York, and Canada. Many of Ferland’s events/installations are autonomous, very innovative and a reflection on human nature, the full scale of life. Other earlier works relate to the industrial sculpture scale, and a particular Montreal sense of materials that characterized the works of many sculptors in the 1960s and 1970s. L’Abri and Antenna are two such pieces. On a larger scale Memoire qui Marche made for a symposium in Tultapec, Mexico (1992) or Water Bridge created for Cautitlan, Mexico (1995) express the nostalgia for the industrial with a slight sense of humour. Kouokiao, commissioned by Royal Botanical Gardens played on the duality of human built cultural icons and the simple procreational structures of nature. With its treated steel forms, and moss-covered rock hanging in the balance, Ferland’s Kouokiao captures the fragility of life and intertwining of human enterprise — all in one elegiac sculptural form
The latest sculptures are almost Baudelairian in their theatrical, and contrast presence. This admixture of an implicit symbolism and performance-related theatricality makes these works again stand out inimically in the Quebec scene. For Ferland is a mature and accomplished sculptor with an intuitive feel for materials, contexts and the overall scene. Ferland skates on the margins admirably, challenging the more technically enhanced, craft-like manufacture of today’s art school graduates. Unlike San Francisco Funk sculptors of Ferland’s generation for instance, Ferland’s sculpture are characteristically marked by the Quebec origins of his art. There is a darkness, a spiritual depth, even something that challenges the nihilism of our era in these brooding presences. As fluid structural exercises these dark draped vestiges look performative, dance and action oriented, but they likewise speak of a kind of inherent tragedy.
With their strong physical presence, these new sculptures collectively titled Tegumentum the show at Ferland’s new gallery studio in East Angus are a distinct departure from the more installation oriented, even whimsical sculptures of the 1990s. At a show with 14 Sculptors in Soho, New York Times critic Michael Brenson reviewing the show called Ferland’s sculptures “Open works with a touch of humor”.
What could be called an abstract lyricism pervades Ferland’s sculptures whatever period. In this sense his works recall Roland Poulin’s for the particularity, and Quebec sensibility that pervades his art, though they are very different sculptors. These new forms play off and embroider on the ephemeral quality of cloth. Seen as a series they are very much presences that witness the action of time.
The look could reference classical Hellenistic sculpture, but the rough wooden sub-structures that support and are the base out of which these forms hang are completely contemporary. The folds, and hangs of the black resin coated cloth hangs black and dense in the gallery space at the Fondation Huhomiste.
Ferland himself refers to the: ”skin of things” when he talks about these new sculptures, as if it were a parchment, something that disguises the sub-structure and is also a medium between feelings and what exists outside us. As an alliterative expression, Ferland’s skin equation suggests a covering, an envelope, but equally the surface that ensures our survival as humans in the earth’s atmosphere. As Gregoire Ferland comments, “Skin is extremely sensitive. It puts the body in contact with the outside. Skin is crucial to the collecting and processing of various tactile stimuli. With it, we can feel and recognize what is key. When children, our skin is bright, flexible and soft. Skin is alive and, like any living organism, it grows old and dies.”
As a show, Tegumentum evidences Gregoire Ferland’s ongoing experimental and creative spirit for he again has changed and evolved his style. His art is close, dense, and passionate. The visual metaphors we sense in these action-oriented sculptures can express great pain, just as they can be elegiac and lyrical, always with a poetic sensibility.
164 Saint- Jacques, East Angus, QC
Tel.: 819 832 4287
August 13-September 11th