In this second part of a trilogy on the subject of youth, Jean-Robert Drouillard’s exhibition title plants an image of excessiveness in our minds: one of particles colliding and the potential act of creation that ensues. This body of work is a reflection on the protests that recently mobilized youth in Québec and elsewhere in the world. The artist’s view on the matter is a deeply personal one of observing his sons and their friends as activists. Carved in wood, a handful of figures borrow the adolescents’ features and postures, while the renderings of gas masks, gas canisters and aerosol cans signify their revolt.
Yet in Drouillard’s hands the familiar visual lexicon of resistance is enveloped in a semantic fog. As a result of this, the figures are presented to us in shadow and appear ambiguous. There is an absence of violence, no twisted looks of fury in their faces and no tightened fists ready for attack. Instead, these bodies stand firmly planted on the ground with the casual attitude of teenagers and have distant looks in their eyes, as if they were outside of material reality.
In the studio, Drouillard is faithful to the details of clothing and of tattoos, but he plays with the size of the figures, widens their shapes and gives an anonymous quality to their faces. The tension between specificity and ambiguity is a result of the energy that he draws from his models. Carved in the veins of wood, this project succeeds in simultaneously distancing and butting-together the singular (Rosalie, Cédric…) and the general, or as the artist states, the universal. In fact, the artist’s hand, visible in the carving and in his choice of poses, shows that he does not concede to one or the other. This intentionally created tension is perhaps the source of the unsettling presence of Jean-Robert Drouilard’s sculptures.
As I write this text, the sculptures have not yet been placed in the gallery. Every aspect of the spatial relationships affects the reading of the work, and so, the theatricality or the absence of theatricality remains a mystery to me. However, what is certain is that the indications of urgency are presented equally with those of interiority. The artist gives space to both the vitality of young people––the arms of his cheerleader open to the world––and to the withdrawn, sombre side of youth. In relation to one another, the sculpted figures can be read as multiple particles belonging to a single form, a single social body. One gesture responds to another and a portrait develops, which relies not on one individual, but on the whole group, alert and thoughtful. What circulates among the sculptures just like what circulates between us, stirs us up and mobilizes us, is the most loaded part of all.
Caroline Loncol Daigneault, author, researcher and curator
Translated from french by Josée Aubin Ouellette
After his studies in literature and creative literature, Jean-Robert Drouillard redirects in sculpture. He graduated at l’École-atelier de sculpture de Québec, now called Maison des Métiers d’art, in 2000. In 2002, four other artists and himself founded Coop Le Bloc 5, an artistic production studio cooperative based in Limoilou, where he still works today. Jean-Robert Drouillard teaches at la Maison des Métiers d’art since 2004. He is represented by Lacerte gallery in Quebec City and in Montreal. Born in Gaspé, Jean Robert Drouillard lives and works in Quebec City.