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In conversation with artist Renée Gouin

renee gouin fashion artist interview eesome magazine girl shapes colors

Vancouver based Artist Renée Gouin, builds upon inspiration found amongst the practice of reduction. Articulating a visual response to negative space, in-tow with the application of accentuated contours, that are intuitively composed alongside each monolithic-transfer. Gouin’s work is unified by her appreciation regarding the methodology of Japanese wood-blocking, a notable printmaking technique that obtained prominence during the Edo Period (1603-1868). 

Muted tones and pared-down shapes are integral components in providing the foundational structure to Gouin‘s work. Furthered by an innate-interest concerning the relationship between modernity and femininity. Renée flawlessly explores spaces occupied by people, encompassing a seemingly meditative observation in regards to daily-routines, whereby depictions of Women partaking in ritualistic means of dressing are captured. Gouin also accompanies furthered visual studies of interiors and objects of design. 

Below, Renée Gouin talks with Eesome Magazine about her process and artistic ideology: 

What was your first encounter with your practice? For a long time I was focused on painting and drawing, but I found myself wanting to create graphic, flatter, more immediate shapes. I started to experiment with the process of monotype print making about 9 years ago, which blends painterly gestures with print making. I now feel very comfortable with this method and enjoy all of the subtle nuances the technique provides.

Muted colour palettes and clean shapes tend to be a running theme within your work, are these factors carefully considered through planning ahead, or do you achieve a piece by instinct with no prior planning? I don’t work from a specific pre-defined colour palette, it’s from instinct and reflects the feeling I want in the specific piece. However, the compositions do require a fair amount of planning. I do a lot of image research and then sketch to evolve the composition and then create the colour palette that feels right. Sometimes this means re-doing a whole piece just to adjust a shade or tone of a single shape for the piece to work properly.

Could you briefly explain your process? I create monotypes, a form of printmaking, by rolling paint onto a glass plate. The image on the plate is transferred by burnishing the paper with a bamboo barren, then pulled back to reveal the print. Unlike many other printmaking techniques that are about producing multiples I don’t make duplicates; I only produce an image once. It’s a medium that gives me the ability to combine a painterly approach with a level of precision that achieves the modern graphic feeling I want.

What are the core elements that inform your practice? What inspires you? Predominately it’s about creating clarity and harmony between the essential formal elements: shape, colour, and composition. Fashion and the female form have always been a great vehicle for this in itself. The negative space is really important in my images. It accentuates the subjects within the space and their relationship with one another. By pairing down the compositional elements, the aesthetic experience is more immediate and direct.

My work also explores the relationship between femininity and modernity. The face of my female subjects is usually left unmarked so the emphasis is on their gestures, how they engage with one another, and with the clothing. Fashion is a way to create and experience a sense of personal beauty and empowerment, so I try to capture this feeling.

I also take a lot of inspiration from the immediate tactile experience of my materials, especially paper – how it reacts and responds to the paint, pressure I apply, and the marks and effects that result. In terms of artists that inspire me there are a lot, but the ones that have been with me the longest are: Egon Scheile (his works on paper, the negative space, earthy colour palette, images of clothes and patterns). Sonia Delaunay (one of the first to mix disciplines of art, fashion, illustration, textiles and stage design, with a rich use of colour, geometric pattern, and abstraction). Milton Avery (American painter, using broad swaths of luminous colour and stylized forms to capture the essence of a scene without fixating on details. I love the beautiful colours, flatness of forms, and overall lyrical sense. His work has a naive sophistication and emotion). Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith (there is a fragility and vulnerability to their work, and a unique idiosyncratic language. The use of metaphor and subject is haunting and beautiful).

Did you partake in any internships, if so where? Do you feel they are imperative for furthered learning? If not, what are your views overall regarding internships? After studying design at Parsons in New York I worked at 303 Gallery in Chelsea for half a year, which I loved and consolidated my desire to actually study fine arts. I then came back to Vancouver and got involved with the Orr Gallery, an artist-run center focused on art without a commercial agenda. It was really experimental and exciting and expanded my awareness of what unknown interdisciplinary artists were doing and encouraged me to expand my own artistic perspective. Neither of these was a formal internship, but I think anything you can do to immerse yourself in the environment and influences that speak to you as an artist will have an impact.

Do you think it’s paramount in furthering an artistic practice via the means of Art School? Or do you believe a practice can evolve without taking the educational route? Certainly an artistic practice can evolve naturally and without formal education. For me, when I started I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or say through art, but I knew I had a lot I wanted to express in a poetic way. Going to Art School gave a structure to those first explorations and presented new questions I hadn’t considered. It was also a way to be completely immersed in artistic dialog and thinking and be surrounded by others doing the same.

Who and what influences your work? Beyond the artists I mentioned before, I am also heavily influenced by various forms of Folk Art and its honest pictorial narratives. For example, I love the graphic design and colour palettes of Japanese woodblock prints. I also love the freedom and whimsy of Inuit art, and it’s use of negative space. The Swedish artist Jochuam Nordstrom blended Swedish, Lappish and German folk figures with modern themes and I adore his work also.

Do you think Instagram is a vital tool in terms of self-promotion as an Artist? Instagram has been a useful tool that has given my artwork a lot of exposure, but I’ve never created work specifically for Instagram. I started using it as a way to share my work informally and journal its evolution. Over time the collage of the grid has become a compelling visual collection in of itself that helps me continually evaluate my work as a whole. It’s humbling and lovely that thousands of people have taken a moment to appreciate my work, but I’m not interested in using it in a commercial way. I only sell my monotypes at shows, to interior designers and for commissioned projects. I basically intend to keep using Instagram in the same way, to share what I love doing with an audience that appreciates my work as it evolves.

How do you feel about the progressive changes over the last few years, regarding the influx of women in the arts? I think technology is at the root of this accelerated and elevated awareness of women artists and feminist themes. This is wonderful and can only be a good thing. My hope is that this wave continues, but also that any other social divisions become irrelevant so the only thing left to focus on is the work itself.

Do you have any parting advice for new up and coming Artists? Love what you do and take nourishment from the process of creating work you’re proud of. It can be a long path to where we want to be as artist, both creatively and for recognition, so be persistent and patient. Be willing to take on projects and commissions that push you outside of your comfort zone, also be clear on your terms in order to deliver the best result.

All images courtesy of Renée Gouin
Interview by Tagen Donovan