Imagerie de l’héritière, a text by Marie Hélène Allain

Imagerie de l’héritière is a single sculpture which occupies an entire room.

In 2000, I had an exhibition in the same room of the New Brunswick Museum: Une pierre pour toi / A Stone for You, a project consisting of sixteen individual pieces. Seven of the sculptures were already like little installation pieces. But I have to admit that, at the time, the idea of doing installation exhibitions had not even occurred to me.

Installation is well-suited to a style of work that is rather slow and dreamlike. It has the advantage of allowing the artist to muse, ponder, develop and transform the theme, and at the same time of allowing the artist to be transformed by the process.

My artistic journey led me to create my first monumental piece, Ocean Bone / Œuvre d’océan, in 1983. It can be seen in the lobby of the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre, in Market Square. For some time, I had dreamed of sculpting a block of stone that would offer me enough space to say everything I had to say, even if I did not really know “what it was I had to say.” It was during this period of monumental sculptures that little assemblages appeared. These pieces required a different reading; their meaning was now to be found in the relationship among the diverse materials that were joined, juxtaposed or connected. Assemblages gradually became installations, the way monoliths became monumental works. Who knows what can happen after installation…

In 2004, I wrote this about my first installation, Secrets de varnes / Secrets of Alder: “(…) I think I have expressed, in some way, a bit of our heritage.” I was thinking about the great strength of our Acadian ancestors, the force that made it possible to rebuild and recreate a people.

In 2008, with the installation Oser l’aventure de la création – Inutile gratuité et Secrets d’une passion / Daring to venture into creation – Gratuitous uselessness and Secrets of a Passion, I was thinking about the passion that nurtures an artist who is entirely dedicated to art-making, and about the life-giving force of an artist’s work. The installation I am presenting here, Imagerie de l’héritière, moves in a slightly different direction, exploring the strength of connections between generations and the rich life force of heritage. Human beings, aware and unsatisfied creatures that we are, want to explore, to know, to acknowledge, to transpose elements so we can invent a new life for ourselves. Returning to our roots, a movement typical of Acadians, provides a solid platform to launch us into the future.

Since the beginning of my career, I have felt the presence of a force that inhabits all living beings. I believe my inspiration comes from this source, from the important moments in my life when I have experienced this life force. Once I became aware of these experiences, they started to grow inside me until they blossomed into works of art. A finished work appears to me as a dream-image; today I would probably call it imagery. Part of the interpretation of the imagery is familiar, and another part remains to be uncovered.

We are all formed out of rock, and we all work at releasing ourselves from this matter by transforming it in our own way. For me, as a sculptor, working my way through hard stone may be the conquest necessary to make visible that which exists within. A faithful witness to my struggles, stone serves to express what I have to say; whether by its density, texture, shape or colour, it becomes an important metaphor to reinforce the meaning of the theme I have chosen. This is even more true of Imagerie de l’héritière.

Although the works I am making now seem very different from my first pieces, there is a clear thread that can be traced from the beginning: the exploration of the life force, the force that animates the living beings we are, the force that surpasses us and inspires us to surpass ourselves. The forces common to a people, the forces of passion and of human heritage I am showing here, are in no way exceptions to this pattern.

 

Marie Hélène Allain
Text published in the 2016 catalogue for the exhibition Imagerie de l’héritière
Presented by the New Brunswick Museum