Conceptual sculptures

Julia Dault gives riveting presentation on her artwork

Around 50 people gathered for Dault’s presentation.
Image by: Arwin Chan
Around 50 people gathered for Dault’s presentation.

World-renowned artist Julia Dault came to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC) on Thursday to speak about the process behind her work as part of an artist talk series.

Dault, who received a BA in art history from McGill University in 2001 and a BFA from Parsons School of Design in 2008, currently lives and works between Brooklyn and Cincinnati. She also worked as an art critic for the National Post from 2003-05.

She came to Queen’s for two weeks to work personally with fine art students and mentor them in their creative processes. During this time, she stopped by the AEAC to discuss her work and its significance in an open lecture.

Jan Allen, the director of the AEAC, gave a brief introduction before Dault took the stage.

“It’s important that we are able to feature artists of the world with works of art that intrigue us and probe our curiosity,” Allen said.

In her presentation “Anatomy of an Exhibition”, Dault discussed her experiences working in both sculpture and paint.

Dault has had, and currently has, exhibitions at many world art institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the Contemporary Art Museum Houston (CAMH).

She focused the discussion mostly around her most recent exhibition entitled Colour Me Bad.

Dault took audiences on a behind-the-scenes tour of her creative process in Colour Me Bad, which is her first solo show in a public gallery space.

“I got the inspiration for the name from the 90s band ‘Color Me Badd’,” Dault said. “I like for a lot of my paintings to have double meanings that pivot on the inside of cultural movements.”

In a presentation that included pictures of her work, Dault led the audience through the process of site visits leading up to her Colour Me Bad exhibition at the Power Plant gallery in Toronto.

The gallery space she was provided with was a combination of a room with low 10-foot ceilings and two doorways, which allowed access to another, more open room with 22-foot ceilings.

With this space, Dault could explore concepts such as anti-illusionism and material reciprocity.

Anti-illusionism refers to a style of artwork that’s straightforward and presents all that it offers in construction and appearance.

“With anti-illusionism, I was wondering if you could make an object with all the information necessary to understand it, no smoke and mirrors,” Dault said.

“I wanted to explore what it would mean to make an anti-illusionist piece which contains its own explanation.”

In terms of material reciprocity, Dault was stated that she was aiming to test what she was physically capable of doing and what she could do with the materials she chose to use. Combining these ideas, Dault went through the process of creating a series of sculptures with industrial materials such as plexiglass, formica and everlast boxing wraps.

The assembly of these sculptures took place organically, strictly on-site at the exhibition space — not in a studio separately — by Dault herself.

Dault created a series of rules for herself where she couldn’t pre-fabricate, pre-heat or pre-bend the materials and she couldn’t ask for any help.

“I begin making the sculptures by laying out the materials and from there I begin to play with the materials and see what I can do,” Dault said.

“It’s the idea of not planning in advance, but creating in the moment, and seeing the process of the labour and making with imperfections in the materials, so that you can tell that it’s made.”

Dault refers to this process as “dirty minimalism”, a term which she coined.

Although she described her work as “performative” she put emphasis on the fact that it’s not performance art, since an audience wasn’t present during the creation of these sculptures.

When the process is complete, Dault titles her work on the amount of time it took her to create it, so that viewers who weren’t able to physically see the process can imagine the process of creation based on the amount of time it took.

But Dault said there’s sometimes a great physical struggle with the materials, which can “beat her up”.

Dault also talked about her paintings — which aren’t done in the same way as her sculptures — which she spends an unlimited amount of time working on in her studio.

In her painting, Dault explores “painting backwards”, in which she builds layers of paint and then uses metal tools — such as a palette knife — to pull away at the layers of paint and create an image.

“You can only express yourself with the words you know,” Dault said. “I like to challenge how my vocabulary is limited by the materials I’m using, and how I can further expand that vocabulary.”



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