Interview with Sophie Jodoin

Line Gallery: In the past your work has hovered between drawing and painting, but it settled rather comfortably into drawing. Why do you think drawing is a practice that interests you?

Sophie Jodoin: My definition of drawing is pretty open, personal and evolving – I don’t like to give it boundaries. I happen to work in monochrome and mainly on paper, but I also make collages, video, sculptures and think of them in terms of drawing as well. Its closeness to writing and sound has always intrigued me.

 

LG: Your drawings have always shown a considerable amount of skill in their execution. Would you say that your skill came quite naturally, or was it something that you had to learn?

SJ: Skill is not something I look for in other artists’ works, or necessarily trust. Technique tends to want to set its own agenda and can easily become empty. I don’t like to look at art in terms of “skill” but rather intent.

 

LG: Could you speak about your working process? How do you approach a drawing or a series?

SJ: It’s ongoing. Ideas are often triggered for possible future projects while I’m working on a series. The idea for a work is more important than its particular mode of representation; distinctions between abstraction and figuration, genre and media are increasingly irrelevant. A body of work can originate in two ways: either something I have read or seen triggers reflection, a direction, or the opposite, that I start with something specific and search for the material that will lead me there. And the two approaches bleed into one another. Source material is similarly open-ended: my own photos, the web, magazines, used books, found objects, films, music, readings… This kind of gathering is akin to archeology and excavation, but perhaps closer to decryption. I rarely collect with the objective of an immediate use.

Setting certain parameters early on related to the scope of the intention behind a series is important for me – scale, materials, duration – but projects might run from a few works to a few hundred and develop over weeks or years. I consider them as open journals, like compiling aphorisms or building up soundscapes. There’s a framework and each element retains a particular tonality and role. The presentation of a series – the various possible installations and scenarios, and its relationship to architecture and context – is integral as well. A series of drawings often becomes the starting point for installations with collage, painting, found objects, and video.

Over the past two years, I have been moving from thematically self-contained series to more fluid groups comprised of drawings, collages and objects selected from existing series. These new arrangements allow for more open-ended narratives. They seem to have a very different relationship to memory, putting the function of narrative itself into play.

 

LG: Our visitors have really connected with the work in your exhibition, many on a deep personal level. They seem to be identifying with aspects of uncertainty and loss of a relationship. Could you speak to what was driving the work for and so uncertain suddenly and about how you derived your imagery for this exhibition?

SJ: I think visitors may have connected with the exhibition because of the universality of its explicit themes – love, loss, relationship, memory. I had something different in mind initially and tried out scenarios in my studio based on the actual dimensions of the gallery’s rooms. The intimacy of the space and its domestic aspect, the gallery being a home, was interesting to me. I wanted something quiet, not overwhelming, something tender and almost bare. I knew that I wanted to present the works off the walls – on a flat surface, like an open book. I also wanted to combine it with other elements to lend the whole a tempo of breathing. The solution was to revisit the series tiny tender love poems, but create a variant with only certain images and in a different format.

tiny tender love poems is a collaboration between a poet (Jhave) and I living in distant cities. Twelve small works on paper, with excerpts from Jhave’s emails paired to black silhouetted drawings of discarded objects I had collected off the street. The interweaving of words and images constitutes a hybrid poem/portrait of the inherent intricacies and ephemeralities of a long-term relationship. Parrying this series are a large-scale drawing of a discarded birthday bouquet and a small-format image of two hands rising from darkness to greet or forward us, but precariously. They serve, figuratively, as bookends, though not as prologue and epilogue.

 

LG: For and so uncertain suddenly you collaborated with Jhave, a digital poet. How do you think this collaboration influenced your work for this exhibition? More generally, how important is collaboration in your practice?

SJ: I have been cutting-out sentences and words from books and magazines for longer than I can remember. I’m a huge reader but I don’t write much. tiny tender love poems is the first time that I have included text throughout a series. I’ve worked on several occasions with Jhave on videos, he filmed ideas I wanted to realize, and created the audio. tiny tender love poems is different in the sense that it was an equal collaboration from the start. As for future collaborative projects with others, it is something that interests me, probably in book form.

 

LG: Your work often focuses on difficult subject matter. Why do you think you are interested in the darker aspects of our human experience?

SJ: The body, as it responds to different conditions, has been at the core of my work for a long time, and my approach to the issue has varied. Recently, my work has moved from serial depictions of traumatic subjects to more enigmatic narratives that restrict or alter representation; the human form has partially or completely disappeared. A sense of unease and foreboding is still crucial but the clarity of content of earlier works has been displaced and derives its anticipation now from its ambivalence.

 

LG: You have made a number of videos to date. Do you think of the videos as being different from the drawings? What relationship do the videos have to the drawings?

SJ: Including video, light boxes and collage in my work stems from a desire to think (of drawing) differently. My videos are constructed as drawings. They have a common vocabulary: monochromatic, minimalist, single figures set against indefinite spaces and they are to be read as tableaux vivants.

 

LG: What do you think has contributed to the development of your art practice the most?

SJ: Early on, that I gave up painting. Now, the net, my long-term studio, my passion for books, traveling, relationships.

 

LG: Are there any drawing artists that you have been looking at recently?

SJ: I spent some time in the UK recently and quite a bit of it at the Drawing Room in London. Some highlights were, Franziska Furter’s installations and works on paper, Mira Schendel’s notebooks, Rosemarie Trockel’s draft books, Andrea Heller, Elly Strik, Louise Bourgeois’ fabric works and night drawings, Johanna Calle, Silvia Bachli, and Nasreen Mohamedi.

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