Julie Ouellet | esse arts + opinions

Julie Ouellet

Anne-Marie Dubois
  • Se contraindre à se perdre no. 26-02-17, 2017. Photo: Guy L'Heureux, courtesy of the artist
  • Se contraindre à se perdre no. 15-03-17, 2017. Photo: Guy L'Heureux, courtesy of the artist
  • Chemins détournés # 13-02, 2013; Le grand nœud, 2012. Photos: Guy L'Heureux, courtesy of the artist
  • Se perdre, 2015. Photo : Guy L'Heureux, courtesy of the artist
  • Calquer une forêt, spring 2016. Photo: courtesy of the artist
  • Calquer une forêt, winter 2017. Photo: courtesy of the artist

In her graphic work, Julie Ouellet examines the ornamentation and means of drawing, using the line as a template for a practice unfolding within an expanded pictorial field. For over a decade, she has explored the spatial and semantic variations of drawing that fall within a broader contemplation of movement and wandering. It comes down to the line — the binding agent of the work — to guide both the artist’s hand and the observer’s body in a haptic stroll through visual territories. The roaming lines become entangled and accumulate on the surface of the works, creating the effect of depth, in which swarming and amorphous masses evolve.

Using a minimalist formal vocabulary and rigorous, almost monastic, methods of production, Ouellet intimately structures the gesture so as to test its limits. Thus constrained, the gesture paradoxically gains an autonomy rooted in the process of its own shaping, punctuated by the repetition or accumulation of the motif. Therefore, the matrix function traditionally associated with drawing is made to resonate with the sketched aspect of the line, which often becomes blurred, goes astray, or is hatched. Taking up the fundamentally performative aspect of drawing, the artist overlaps organic and Cartesian in a practice that is both intuitive and methodical, and is capable of producing an encounter between body and artwork based on the act of drawing itself.

For over two years, with the project Se contraindre à se perdre (Forcing Oneself to Get Lost), Ouellet has sought to disrupt this sometimes automatic, or even disembodied, gesture. After several exploratory trips to Carillon Island, near Montréal, Ouellet has made the surrounding landscape the backdrop of a new body of drawings inspired by the wild character of the place. Based on a tracing of the forest made in situ, she creates a framework that serves as the model for a series of sketches, each involving different modes of production. A slow but fruitful reiteration that synchronizes an untamed wilderness with the gesture of drawing, Ouellet’s work translates the rhizomatic complexity of the interrelations that we weave and that bind us to the world.

Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioaei

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