Studio Visit – Laurence Vallières
12 April 2018
Whether in Berlin or Hawaii, the deserts of Burning man or the streets of Miami, Laurence Vallières impressive sculptures grab your attention. Vallières animals are typically engaged in typical, human, everyday-scenarios that will captivate your fascination.
In between two flights, we managed to catch Laurence Vallières at a quick stop at her Montreal studio, during which we had the opportunity to discover the menagerie and their artistic creator .
Located at the back of a massive manufacturing warehouse lies some of her artworks and several pieces of cardboard waiting to be turned into art, mixed with some small figurines and clay sculptures.
Tell us, how has your interest for art developed and when did you decide to make it your career?
When I was younger, I always liked art classes. When it was time to choose a path in college, I applied for human sciences to reassure my parents, but it only lasted one semester. Once I visited the art studios inside the school, I was hooked. They were simple big and white spaces, but I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. I then followed with a Bachelor’s degree in Art and I went for it.
Which artists inspired you early on?
I’ve always been really impressed with sculptors, like Antony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois et Andy Goldsworthy, to name a few. The latter creates more installations than sculptures, but what he does is fabulous. It’s really poetic, I think.
Your sculptures often take an animal form. What attracts you to this subject in particular?
Satirical literature discussing anthropomorphism inspires a lot of my artworks, more specifically Maus by Art Spiegelman and Animal Farm by George Orwell. I think it is really interesting to use animals to discuss political situations and that’s kind of what I’m trying to translate with my art. I always liked the idea of representing typical human situations, may they be political, environmental or social, through animals.
You’re known for your artworks made out of cardboard. Why have you chosen this material?
It’s funny because I originally studied ceramics, clay was the material that first attracted me to the art world. Although, when I did my first exhibit, the space was really big and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to fill it. So, I wanted to create a massive art piece to place in the middle of the room and clay can’t really support the dimensions I wanted to occupy the space. Cardboard would be my best alternative. It’s a widely available and cheap medium that you can transform into massive pieces. Because my work was so different and the format pretty impressive, it quickly caught people’s attention. It grew in popularity at an incredible speed, so I continued on this path.
Can you explain your artistic approach and the different steps you go through when creating your cardboard sculptures?
Before, I’d first sculpt my artwork with clay and then recreate it in cardboard in a larger format. Or, I would get inspiration from small figurines I’d find at a store. However, these days, I don’t really need smaller models to refer to.
Also, my artworks were completely made out of cardboard before. Now, I use a lot of wood as a material of support inside the sculpture. It allows for a more stable and long-lasting sculpture and also allows for my artworks to be aerial.
As for my conceptual process, I often decide the subject of my artworks on the spot, depending on the place and the theme of the event I participate in. For example, for Pow Wow Hawaii, I sculpted a gecko, as there are a lot of these there. Likewise, at Art Basel Miami, I sculpted mooses, as the theme of Juxtapoz Clubhouse’s exhibition was kinda Canadian, with Whatisadam’s patriotic artworks, amongst others.
Your art allows you to travel a lot, which is your go-to place to create?
I like Germany a lot. I often go back there. It’s one of the only countries outside of Canada where I could see myself live.
The majority of your artworks are exhibited in galleries, but a lot of them also appear on the streets during festivals, like MURAL, or special art shows. What attracts you to public art? Can we expect to see more of your artworks outside in the future?
I’ve always had a fascination with urban art. Like many, Banksy was a big inspiration. I liked the political, yet satirical messages behind his art, it’s funny and intelligent at the same time.
I’ve never done any graffiti or murals, but I once did small cement sculptures that I brought into the streets incognito. It was my form of public art. It was also surprising to find a small green gargoyle instead of a big tag.
I would love to create more public art, but cardboard isn’t really made for that. It really is ephemeral, but that’s what it’s like to use cardboard as your main medium. Now, I’d love to work with the city to create more permanent pieces à la Jeff Koons.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve got a lot going on in the next few months. I’m going to China in a couple of days to participate in an exhibition by Yoho Magazine. It’s still a little unclear for me, I’ve never been to this country, so I can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out! Then, I’m going to Crush Festival in Denver, I also have a sculpture to make in Morocco, and then there’s Pow Wow Lancaster in October. I also hope I’ll have the opportunity to participate in MURAL Festival again this year.