Review

  “Ce qui n’est pas là : Gabrielle Desmarais and Anne-Marie Rébillard” 

Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h Montreal, Canada

October 4 – 20, 2013

By Lyne Gagnon  

In the display window, a few sketches with intriguing lines. On the floor, words laid out, all in black. Around the gallery, natural wood pedestals holding brooches, rings, pendants and earrings. Some enormous pieces, black, into which one wants to recklessly dive in, then smaller ones, skin tone, that we wish to examine, caress.

Gabrielle Desmarais and Anne-Marie Rébillard, two contemporary jewelry artists, crossed paths at the Labo, a workshop hosted by put together by gallery owner Noël Guyomarc’h. Over time, Guyomarc’h senses resonance between those two young art jewellers. Trusting his instinct, he invited them to collaborate on an original collection that would then be shown in the gallery, resulting in the exhibition “Ce qui n’est pas là” (that which isn’t there).

The two jewelers chose wood as their primary material. Desmarais was picturing pieces of large dimensions to which she would add gemstones. A lot of gemstones. Rébillard opted for driftwood, whatever the tide surrendered. Desmarais found inspiration in geodes while Rébillard, like an anthropologist, studied the correlation between nature and culture, the contradiction between the temporality of human life and the indestructible substances that are man-made. As she explains, “It is somewhat strange to me to find myself facing immortal plastic flowers laid down on the grave of a loved one whose body is turning to dust underground”.

From this starting point, Desmarais devised a series of cocoons, subdued, elegant, black and matte. Oversized brooches looking like blocks of graphite that she sculpted ardently and with instinct. The work presents a series on inner worlds that we suppose were created so the entire beauty of the universe could take refuge in them. Our eyes cannot help but linger on these pieces, like a brooch disguised as a clam that seems ready to close itself off at any moment to protect the inflorescence of pink quartz it contains. Other brooches and earrings resemble geodes, covered with onyx and black gemstones fragments that may hold some forgotten secret. Through these fictive worlds, traces of human kind, sensual and poetic, are suggested by skin one shades.

Rébillard gave life to wood fragments and plastic shreds, rendered unrecognizable, with textured shapes that transmute some into fractured bones, other into prostheses rendered necessary to a new form of existence. The work is deeply moving. Like fragile ligament joints, cotton threads with minute knots articulate the compositions, often in triads. Behind the apparent abstraction in these ingenuous assemblies, we sense a family of living beings, hybrid and vulnerable. Each one seems to want to tell us a story. We want to listen to them, get to know them. We want to slide a finger in this sort of hand-spoon that ends the long wood arm of one of the brooches in the collection. We wish to work our way back up its shoulder and brush against its striated body, turned into bodice that wears a headless warrior’s helmet.

Gabrielle Desmarais and Anne-Marie Rébillard have transcended the transposition of worlds using very different approaches but in perfect harmony. With audacity and impetuousness, Desmarais transformed the world of geodes into inviting refuge- universes. In the poetic action of simple metaphors, Rébillard created touching specimens of an imaginary ethnicity made up of flesh and plastic. If the chosen formal strategies deviate from conventional jewelry techniques, its form isn’t any less appealing. Conceptualization effort of the artists provides the work with many meanings, that can be read and reread, and the temperate and efficient spatial setting of the collections echoes with magnificent precision.

Lyne Gagnon is a Montreal-based writer and artist.