Material Matters: Interview with Adeline de Monseignat

London-based artist Adeline de Monseignat’s sculptures are sensory triggers. Through her experiments, the Dutch-Monegasque artist examines the organic possibilities of her materials: a folded wrinkle in a great globe of marble transforms the surface, it becomes yielding and soft. Fur is trapped within glass balls, a warm material trapped within a cold one creating a strange thermal illusion. In so doing de Monseignat shows us that heat and energy are transferable- whilst we see glass and marble as cold and intimidating, forbidding even, they can both be warmed, made softer, made flesh-like.

Her objects are recognisably bodily and we react to them as anthropoid forms. ‘Mother in child’ is a globular glass sculpture filled with fur and wrapped protectively in fabric. Made to the measurements of the artist as a baby, it is an odd and appealing object and I find myself wondering about its weight, about how it would feel to hold it. These surrogate bodies recall the sculptures and installations of Louise Bourgeois, whose bulging celluloid forms and stuffed fabric bodies were deeply emotive of human life, and beyond that human trauma. It is this ‘uncanny valley’ notion of objects that are just far enough from being identifiably human, yet close enough to trigger a visceral recognition and cause us a certain discomfort which makes de Monseignat’s work so interesting. Whilst much of the artist’s work is pleasing to the eye, she is also interested in fear as a physical reaction and many of her works leave behind a sense of unease. There is a yearning and a troubling tension to this wonderfully tactile art.

As the artist is celebrating the opening of her new curatorial project at Ronchini Gallery I asked her more about where her ideas come from.

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Could you tell me about ‘Mother in child’?

‘Mother in child’ is a piece I made in 2012 when invited to be part of an only women’s show at the Cob Gallery based on Charlotte Gilman Perkin’s novel ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. Suffering from postnatal depression, the main protagonist influenced my idea of a mother and child claustrophobically merging into one. The transit blanket is a symbol for that transitional shift from woman to mother. In need of a baby’s measurements for the piece, I used my own length as a new-born. The piece is therefore 50cm long.

Your forms are incredibly organic, which parts of nature inspire your work?

Everything in nature can happen to be a source of inspiration according to what my research is about at that moment in time. I’m currently interested in various surfaces and textures that can trigger trypophobia, a recently diagnosed repulsion for accumulation of holes on surfaces of inanimate objects and skin. The lotus flower seedpod and the Suriname toad’s nesting back are my current focus, and are both also in fact linked to fertility.

Why fur?

I started using fur as an interactive medium to attract the public to come and touch and interact with my sculptures. I soon realised that the tension was much stronger when touch was suggested but not performed hence my placing fur behind glass and retaining the tension alive.

Adeline de Monseignat, Mother in Child, 2012, vintage fur, pillow filler, glass, transit blanket, on table, 80 x 63 x 91 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Adeline de Monseignat, Mother in Child, 2012, vintage fur, pillow filler, glass, transit blanket, on table, 80 x 63 x 91 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Adeline de Monseignat, Mother in Child, 2012, vintage fur, pillow filler, glass, transit blanket, on table, 80 x 63 x 91 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Adeline de Monseignat, Mother in Child, 2012, vintage fur, pillow filler, glass, transit blanket, on table, 80 x 63 x 91 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Ronchini Gallery

 

Does fur within a glass lozenge form a kind of surrogate body for you?

Somehow, yes. In my series ‘Incubators’, the terrariums are vessels containing a potential for life, like every female, carrying eggs. The history of terrariums as objects, usually used to grow plants, helps the viewer to read the works within this context of life, growth and fertility.

Why eggs?

Because they are the reason of our presence on earth. We all started our lives in one.

Cracks and ruptures appear frequently in your works, what do they mean to you?

They record the presence of life. Cracks, like wrinkles in skin or fabric, suggest movement and there is no movement without life.

Adeline de Monseignat, In The Flesh II, 2015, marble (Cividale), 42 cm diameter, Courtesy of the artist and Ronchini Gallery

Adeline de Monseignat, In The Flesh II, 2015, marble (Cividale), 42 cm diameter, Courtesy of the artist and Ronchini Gallery

‘In the flesh’ has a wonderfully illusory softness to it. Are you interested in the way materials can be deceptive?

Quite the opposite, I want to bring out the full potential of materials, as authentically as possible. Even though marble is known to be cold, it has a full potentiality for fleshiness (with its veins) and warmth. During the process of carving and sanding, the marble surface is sometimes too hot to touch with bare hands.

Are there any artists whose work you find particularly influential?

Cocteau, Buñuel, Bourgeois, Magritte, Hepworth, Brancusi and so many others.

What does 2016 hold for you?

I am working on my first artist film, called L’Étincelle, a six-minute black and white short. My year is thus lined up with pre-production, the shoot in marble quarries in Tuscany, post-production and touring of the film in over 10 confirmed partner venues across Europe.
I will also be part of a group show curated by Sam Zealey and Aglaé Bassens, ‘Mate’ at Soho Revue in London in April 2016.

 

Whispers, Project by Adeline de Monseignat

Ronchini Gallery

9 December 2015- 16 January 2016

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