WORDS BY DARYA KOSILOVA
DARYA KOSILOVA—It’s very clear that you possess a very strong technical foundation. Tell me a bit about your training.
SOPHIE JODOIN— I studied in Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal, focusing on drawing and sculpture, but I would say that much of my technical ability is self-taught.
DK—Many young artists struggle with their experiences at art school and leave without finishing – did you make a conscious decision to complete your education?
SJ—I didn’t question it at the time. I think that post-secondary education is one place where you can meet people and create contacts that might be very important throughout your career as an artist – something which is harder to access if you work in isolation or in an enclosed milieu.
DK—How do you personally relate to the subject matter you discuss in your work such as war, trauma and torture?
SJ—Out of guilt, mainly. I was born white and middle-class in Canada, with an uneventful childhood. I have always been fascinated by how people cope with difficult experiences and how there are these different degrees of resilience. Making drawings and videos of people with physical and psychological damages comes out of a desire to engage indirectly with them. I have always been interested in doing work that is unsettling, which conveys a sense of disquiet. I do not refer to memories or actual events. I like to situate the works between reality and fiction. For example with “The Cherished Ones” I portrayed children with their “cherished” pets, dolls and stuffed animals. The series asks what are the children’s relationships to these pets? It is a gentle and tender one as much as a mean and distorted one. I am always interested in the dichotomy of human nature.
DK—Many of your drawings portray children. Is there something specific about youth and innocence that you feel carries more meaning than the adult form?
SJ—Portraying children rather than adults feels like zooming in on the fears, traumas and scars that happen in childhood and how they prolong themselves into adulthood. I am interested in how susceptible children are to mental and physical injuries and how these shape them as adults and how they deal (or not) with these injuries. Working from old family photo albums I completed a series last year where adults are blotted out and children are living or recalling incest, rape, bullying, dominance…
DK—Over your career you have chosen to eliminate color from your work. Was this a direct choice or did your work organically gravitate towards a grayscale palette?
SJ—The elimination of color is a very conscious act. As a student, and for a few years after university, my work was strictly monochromatic. In 2004, I gave up color. I wanted to remove myself from its seductive aspect and regain the immediacy of drawing and the graphic qualities of black and white. Working so minimally has helped me to conceptualize my work further. I feel close to Béla Tarr, one of my favorite filmmakers who works only in black and white. He said, “For me it’s a kind of naturalism, the color movie. With black and white you can keep it more stylistic, you can keep more of a distance between the film and reality, which is important.” I agree with him. Working in black and white has afforded me a kind of distance with the subject that I think is important.
DK—Where do you source research materials for your work?
SJ—Anywhere: second-hand bookstores, the Internet, magazines. Once I have a general idea of what I want to work on, I start researching imagery. Or it is the opposite – while looking for imagery, one particular image triggers an idea which leads me into a specific search. For example, finding a black and white yoga book from the seventies lead me first into making collages and then large drawings where the disarticulated bodies became hybrids.
DK—What are you focusing on at the moment?
SJ—I am working on larger scale works and playing with the idea of wall drawing. After so many years working on series that were based on war, violence and child abuse, the subject matter of my latest work has taken a slightly subtler route; maybe less literal, ranging from architecture to household objects to fragmented female figures.
DK—How does an audience respond and react to your work?
SJ—It is at once an empathetic and troubling response. The fact that the scale of the work is often intimate, that it is in black and white, and that its intention is not one of spectacle, allows viewers a setting to be with the work and react according to their own experiences. I am aware that my work might destabilize them as well, but that’s a good thing. My main goal is to perpetuate a certain malaise throughout all of my work.
DK—You’ve spent the majority of your career in Montreal, is there a reason for that?
SJ—I always say that I am nomadic intrinsically rather than physically. Maybe this is the reason why I am still in Montreal after all these years, besides the fact that it is still an affordable city for an artist. Basically, my studio is home, more than the city where I live.
More — www.sophiejodoin.com
Enjoy more of this on thelabmagazine.com, coming summer 2012!