Fire and Pulp
Fact and fantasy meet and mix
By Regina Haggo

Transformation, is an ambiguous condition Essay & Gallery View

Original Lilnk

'It just became like an obsession, the drawings just came flowing out." That's how Corinne Duchesne's latest body of work developed.

"Each page began with a stroke, without intention or idea, and I just waited to see what the story was about. I worked on this in tandem to my large works for about three years and then it ended. Really as mysteriously as it started. "

She's telling me about her contribution to Fire and Pulp, a superb exhibition she shares with Barb Sachs at James North Studio. Both women are well established local artists, both have amazing creative imaginations.

Duchesne is the Pulp part of the exhibition. She's well known as a spinner of spine-tingling, surreal stories, painting and drawing her way onto big sheets of paper and Mylar. These she calls her monolithic paintings. Loss, grief and the passage of time run through her work.

Now she offers us a different presentation, excerpts from a kind of graphic novel.

Duchesne presents her narrative in about 90 framed pages incorporating drawing, painting and collage. Each one is filled with motifs and fragments including cats, birds, humans, insects, buildings, trees, clouds, eyes and boats. Words and quotes from favourite poems pop up everywhere.

The protagonist is Dïq, whom Duchesne describes as "a genderless being faced with the existential question of how to communicate with its mother."

This is complicated by the fact the mother is dead. So Dïq reads poetry to the mother's body and then realizes she can't see or hear.

So far so good. But Duchesne arranges her pictures in no particular order.

"The images can be viewed in any order," she says. "The work itself is a stream of consciousness, meant to mimic memory and daydream, moving through being playful, cryptic, meaningful and observational."

Many of the pages are divided into horizontals, a throwback to her monolithic paintings. In one, she's written, "I am not mature enough 2 use red." The sentence appears in the bottom right corner. Two round forms float nearby, one with the word Apple on it.

The next layer up includes what looks like a flat doll and a big leaf, both lying on a jagged brown shape. The topmost layer contains trees and a circular building topped with a conical roof.

The word Fearful crowds the top left corner of another page which contains images of stuffed toys seemingly at odds with that word. Teddy bear heads, for instance, appear in the bottom register. And a dog, its magenta body patterned with pink flowers, guards the middle register.

Fire is Sachs's territory and refers to her work as a ceramist. She hand-builds and raku-fires her pieces.

Her earliest creations were simplified versions of polar bears and elephants. Her recent animals are more fantastical.

Doubleknit gives us a long-horned, caprine creature with two heads. The heads face in opposite directions and the horns are joined. It can reverse course without turning around.

Sachs enlivens the body with a slightly raised repetitive pattern reminiscent of knitwear. The body of Ribbed Dog is ridged like knitted ribbing.

In Balancing Act, a large animal with long ears, small eyes, prominent snout and long body carries three little ones on its back.

Sachs's creatures have no obvious story to tell us, but they are a perfect match for Duchesne's narrative.

Regina Haggo, art historian, public speaker, curator and former professor at the University of Canterbury, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art.