An Exercise in Intricacy : The Stampings

For several years, Elmyna Bouchard has used a particular technique to create monochromatic images based on a frame or structure, which she groups under the term of stampings. Each one, made with a single small stamp specifically created, develops from the interior towards the exterior around an empty space, which becomes a hole, or from the outer edge towards the centre. The modulations of the framework vary according to the rhythm and tightening of the same motif that is hand stamped thousands of times. Sometimes, the resultant figure covers the entire surface, but more often it pulls away from the edges, especially when the figure is built around one or more holes. Subtly varying from one work to another, the ink’s fluid quality—charcoal grey to dark blue—is the result of extensive experimentation. The titles of the works, which often refer to the idea of making (“Construction de sol” [Earth Construction]) or suggest an action (“J’ajourerai, tu ajoureras,…” [I Will Make Openwork Lace Stitch, You Will Make… etc.], “Revêtir sa résistance” [Assume Its Resistance]), evoke the close connection between human speech and the framework. The Géométrie festive [Festive Geometry] series clearly renders the artist’s interest in the abstract form, which, as she herself confirms, prevails even when inspired by a recognizable familiar object (a carpet, a treasured article of clothing, a mask, etc.). The conjunction of meticulous work and basic shapes that evoke primitive utilitarian objects has prompted many critics to relate her work to Intimism. A reference to interiority is more apt. Done as a form of meditation that re-establishes calm, the patient stamping process echoes the artist’s other activities: the art workshops in which she helps participants struggling with mental health issues raise questions about art making and instability, questions that resonate with, but also feed, her own research. The framework she provides without worrying about the reference to a utilitarian function, and thus to craft, is also behind the exploration of many abstract painters (from Mondrian to Agnes Martin), such that our eyes/our minds continuously oscillate between a utilitarian appreciation of the object and its infinite aesthetic possibilities.

Marine Van Hoof
(translated by Oana Avasilichioaei)