Written by Inbar Ben Ezra
Gabrielle Desrosiers is a visual artist studying at Concordia University in Montreal, originally from Quebec city. Desrosiers spent her last semester at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
The first time I came across the work of Desrosiers, I was on my way to class. I was rushing through the corridor, but stopped to look at her artworks on the walls which were part of an exchange students exhibition at the academy. Desrosiers’ display was composed of drawings and paintings, as well as found objects which she collected, including old postcards from Quebec city (the artist’s place of birth) and a note with childish Hebrew writing. This caught my eye—it didn’t seem to belong among Desrosiers’ exhibit of beautiful drawings and paintings. It wasn’t clear why she put the note there. Was it her own writing? Or had she found it?
“An old lady that lived in my building put a lot of her stuff in the garbage on the street”, Gabrielle explains. “There were so many personal things: letters, pictures, drawings from kids—it was really a treasure for me. I tried to know more about this woman by exploring her belongings”.
“I found a child’s note with a drawing, and the Hebrew writing means ‘a girl trying to avoid the rain’ — I feet like I related to it, it was like myself in sunny Israel, avoiding the rain in Canada.”
A unique part of Desrosiers’ art is this collecting method. The found objects and images used here were taken out of their original context and brought into a new dimension created by the artist. This is an ongoing process for Desrosiers, using the combination of found objects with her own works in order to develop a new environment.
Why did you choose to study in Jerusalem?
It was really important for me to go to a place that will change my quotidian, the one I’m use to where I come from. There are beautiful cultural differences between here and Quebec province. This is what I was looking for. Jerusalem is a special city because of its history and its presence, so I was curious to live here and experience daily life as a visitor not as a tourist.
Also, the presence of religion is very strong in Jerusalem. In Quebec province, maybe mainly in Montreal, it’s possible to observe religions as well, but it’s less present in public sphere, it’s usually kept private. In Jerusalem, the religious presence is everywhere, it’s obvious and it’s a really important part of daily life.
Can you tell us about your working technique?
I’m a multidisciplinary artist, my practice focuses on installation and performance, but I also work with painting, photography and video. I use each medium separately but I usually like to combine them in installations.
I am perpetually collecting objects and remains because I’m interested in their authenticity and presence as artifacts. I like to re-interpret them and bring them into the actual context of my own life and my society. I also want my method to be open so it can evolve with me—with time and space and most of all, with the viewer.
Why is it important to you to use found objects and make it a part of your own work?
For me, these objects embody memory, trace and identity; they hide a mysterious past. This intangible existence is a chaotic, but incredibly rich heritage. The common objects and artifacts represent human history vis-a-vis production, consumption and remains.
There is playfulness involved this method and I often turn it into humor. But on the other hand, I have to be careful not to let the object’s arbitrary nature take away from the overall meaning of my work—this is the most difficult part of using this method.
How has your time in Jerusalem influenced your art?
I think I will realize the influence Jerusalem has had on my art in my production of the next year. But many experiences and subjects have been meaningful to me: tension, contrast, layers, beauty, fakeness, duality and colors of the city are some of them.
In general, the bright colors make me happy and give me energy. I have always been attracted to colors and textures but recently there was a big shift in the way I use them in my work. I feel more free to combine them and to choose brighter tonality. In Jerusalem, the continuous presence of the sun was a major point for a girl from the north like me. Everything seems so bright and contrasting.
During my semester at Bezalel I did several paintings of gradients. Some incorporate other elements such as grids, plants and everyday items from my apartment. The gradient work is the most significant to me. It is directly influenced by the view of the sunset I have from my balcony in Jerusalem. To be able to look at the horizon creates a calming and meditative moment in the intensity of this particular city. I let myself enjoy the beauty of this natural phenomenon, with awareness of this privilege and its contrasting effect on the constant tension of this place.