Julie Tremblay creates shimmering figurative sculpture out of wire and recycled metal, capturing an abstraction of the human form in the midst of flexible movement. Either reaching out from the wall into a somersault or kneeling to the floor, Tremblay’s dynamic but delicate sculptures made their first New York City debut on April 5th in a solo show titled Some Kind of Nature at 571 Projects, located at 551 West 21st Street. When I contacted the artist last month, she elaborated further about the influence of figuration upon her artistic process as well as formalism and gesture.
JC: Where are you from and how long have you lived here?
JT: I am originally from Quebec City, Canada. I am in my twelfth year as a New Yorker, but I had a five-year hiatus when I lived in lovely Copenhagen, Denmark from 2005-2010.
JC: What is the art scene like there?
JT: Both Quebec City and Copenhagen have thriving art scenes, which are both very different from New York’s and from each other, although they both enjoy a good influx of government funds. The art scene in Quebec revolves a lot around government funded, artist-run centers, while the scene in Copenhagen revolves mostly around commercial galleries who are showing mostly young artists fresh out of the Academy. The government funds in Denmark are mostly attributed directly to artists and the arts council also buys a lot of art directly from commercial galleries. But in both cases, since they are small cities, many artists have moved to larger centers.
JC: What draws you to make figurative sculpture as opposed to those that comment on formalist abstraction?
JT: Originally I was drawn by the seemingly endless possibilities of metaphors that could be created using the human form, as well as the challenge of making something personal out of a form that is so unoriginal since it has been at the center of art for as long as art has been. I also really enjoy the way that figurative sculpture engages the viewer, one’s physicality and the subsequent rapport that ensues with the sculpture. I think it creates a very dynamic relationship between the work and the viewer. As a student, I was very involved with photography and the subject matter was almost always someone, or part of someone. But formalist abstraction is something that has and continues to have a big influence on me.
JC: What can be said for the near transparent figure?
JT: They are, like us, porous and permeable. The space is not limited to the outside of the sculpture but is also continued inside. Their environment becomes a part of them, and they become their environment. They can also be seen through one another, serve as a play of positive and negative spaces and are as much, if not more, air than material. In addition each figure is a structure that can remind one of patterns found in nature, be it a network of neurons or the pattern formed by the crisscrossing of tree branches seen in a dense forest.
JC: Your use of wire and mixed media implies a blur of boundaries. Is your work also performative?
JT: I do not see boundaries. But yes, one can say my work is also performative, although I really see it as being sculpture-based, a sort of living sculpture, if you will. I have an ongoing performance project called Everything That Happens. It has had three incarnations so far, one in Copenhagen during August 2009, one in London during April 2010 and one in Toronto during October 2011. This project has been a great source of inspiration for me as it has established a dialog with my “non-living sculpture” work. Excerpts from the Toronto performance can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/32669475
JC: Artists like Anthony Gormley and Kate Gilmore have used the figure to critique the monument. How does your work differ?
JT: My work differs in that while my work challenges the idea of the traditional monument, it will not go as far as to say that I critique it. A lot of the materials I work with are somewhat anti-monumental but it’s just because they are what they are, and I enjoy working with materials that turn away from the tradition of heaviness in sculpture, at the moment. Until 2007 I made heavy sculptures, and quite frankly, got tired of moving them around. So it was both a practical and pertinent thing to do, to make light sculptures. It allowed me to discover new territories.
JC: Your work appears to imply space. Why is that more significant than other motifs like those that surround gender issues?
JT: Apart from the fact that I am a woman taking her stance in a man’s world, I don’t address gender issues directly in my work, gender perhaps, but not gender issues. I am not looking to make political statements. On the other hand ‘space’ is one of my primary preoccupations as a sculptor. I want to fill it, surround it, include and transform it.
JC: What do you seek to achieve in your upcoming show at 571 Projects titled Some Kind of Nature?
JT: Some Kind of Nature marks a transition. The work is more metaphorical and more surreal and also goes back to using a variety of materials. I have wanted my work to take that turn for a while. When I move, my work moves. It takes about a year each time, before I can see in which way the move is affecting the work. I have been very inspired by the surroundings of, and the view from, my Bushwick studio. I am also really inspired by my bike ride across Brooklyn every day. So this show is definitely a response to being back in New York. It is also, in many ways, more abstract and more playful than my previous shows. It will definitely seek to surprise and make you smile.