Monday, September 16th
On The Road - Journal Entry No. I
Since the day we arrived, each participant has been sitting in the same exact spot in one of the two Gerson Zevi Land Art road trip vans. As we spend so much time on the road, each van was given a name. The one led by Alex Gerson goes by the name Dave and its counterpart, led by Matteo Zevi, goes by Dina. In my opinion, the difference between them is remarkable. Dina’s members are better taken care of. We often have internet hotspots, outlets to charge our electronics, apples to healthily snack on, and are overall very kind to each other. Dave on the other hand often gives off bizarre scents, maintains a plethora of junk food, and must constantly assert their “greatness” in unfriendly ways, like taunting Dina’s members and referring to them as Un-Dave. Clearly, my feelings hint at the fact that I ride in Dina.
I sit in the fourth row of the eleven-seater. A row ahead of me is Adeline de Monseignat, a lovely artist who is one of the first members of the trip I was able to get to know. We consistently share intelligent conversations, talking about the art industry in a critical way, where her experiences and wisdom allow her to always drop some real knowledge. Born in Monaco, Adeline currently resides in London where she works full-time as a visual artist. Her work is incredibly unique and always provokes thought. However, what I find most interesting is that although she refers to her works as sculptures, clay is rarely involved. She utilizes materials like fur, steel, wood, sand, hand blown glass, coffee, bread and much more. So you can already imagine how cool of an artist Adeline is.
Sitting by the campfire one night, Adeline brought out her iPhone and flipped through images of her work, discussing the story behind each piece. Whether it was the material used or the concept behind its creation, I found each fascinating. I found her point of view and self expression interesting, and her personality combined with the way she carries herself admirable. I quickly grew to befriend her and look up to her as a driven and passionate artist.
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Q + A W/ ADELINE DE MONSEIGNAT
VISUAL ARTIST - LONDON, UK
Sarah Mendelsohn: So Adeline, how did your interest in art first develop?
Adeline de Monseignat: It’s very difficult to think of a specific time. I think I was always interested in art through the influence of my father. He was artistic himself so I used to pose for his photography and his paintings. He also loved collecting in his own way and had painter friends come to our home and hang out. That’s how I grew up. He always wanted to be an artist himself, but he never really dared to just go into it. My father was a lawyer and a diplomat; he was also in the council in Monaco. So I was able to witness how several facets inspired him. He was an adventurer as well. He loved traveling. He would go to Argentina for two months a year and do his own thing. I always admired that and really enjoyed observing him.
SM: So, then your family must have been supportive when you chose to make that your career?
ADM: Yeah, very supportive. My brother-in-law was quite worried that it wouldn’t happen. He would tell me, “You always need to have a plan B if this doesn’t work out accordingly. Study something broad that doesn’t narrow down to just being an artist.” So I did. I pursued a bachelors of arts in Language and Culture and I was taking a lot of course work in literature and film studies, things like that. It was a four-year program and during my second year I had a melt down. I started crying, “I want to quit. I just want to start over in art school.” I was desperate to just throw myself into art and only do that night and day.
SM: So there’s nothing else that you would want to do then?
ADM: No, not at all. I’ve always known that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I tend to say that I’m a sculptor, but that’s not really true. I’m more of a visual artist. I use all sorts of different mediums and I know it’s going to evolve. I started as a painter. I was painting for seven years. Now I’ve been sculpting for three, four years. I might start doing videos at some point. God knows where it’s going to take me.
“I tend to say that I’m a sculptor, but that’s not really true. I’m more of a visual artist. I use all sorts of different mediums and I know it’s going to evolve. I started as a painter. I was painting for seven years. Now I’ve been sculpting for three, four years. I might start doing videos at some point. God knows where it’s going to take me.”
SM: Why did you decide to make the change from painting to sculpting?
ADM: I think I got bored of a 2D surface and kind of wanted to explore this 3D world and other materials. I don’t know. Even within my painting I was very tactile. I used to use oil and I was very into the material of oil paint for what it is, the sensuality of the material itself. Sometimes I used to paint with my fingertips and then the first few sculptures I made were actually with paint, but as a sculptural medium.
SM: Those are the sandwiches you made right?
ADM: Yeah, the paint sandwiches. Also when I look back at my paintings I was always more interested in the object within the painting rather than the painterly inspiration, the inspiration of the surface, which is not what I’m really good at. I see how my painter friends work and how they explore surfaces. I’ve never really been into the details, priming the canvas and things like that. I was more interested in the object.
SM: I don’t know recent it was, but you showed me pictures of the sculptures with hair in them. How did you come up with that idea? What is it called?
ADM: Hairy eyeballs!
SM: Haha, can you tell me more about it?
ADM: I first started using fur as an interactive medium. I invited people to touch the sculptures, experience them. I thought it was interesting to observe people’s reactions to that. I made one specific sculpture, which involves the fur within the lining of the sculpture so you wouldn’t really see what’s inside. You would just see the outside. The fur was so dense that it blocked your vision. You didn’t really know what was waiting for you when you put your hand inside of it. So, I had it exhibited. People went to experience it and a lot were quite scared. It’s like you don’t know if your hand is going to be chopped off. After a bit of time you go through the experience and it’s entertaining, but there’s nothing left after that. You do it and that’s it. So, that’s interesting. I wanted to understand what would detain that attention. So I started reading about the difference between potentiality and actuality. How something remains potential. I started encasing the fur behind glass so that it would suggest touch, but in actuality you would never have access to it. So it’s suggesting touch with your eyes, rather than with your hands. You would never actually touch it so its potential remains.
“I wanted to understand what would detain that attention. So I started reading about the difference between potentiality and actuality. How something remains potential. I started encasing the fur behind glass so that it would suggest touch, but in actuality you would never have access to it. So it’s suggesting touch with your eyes, rather than with your hands. You would never actually touch it so its potential remains.”
That’s the organic evolution of how I got into using fur. Little by little different things within that started interesting me, like the fact that they have a sense of presence. The vintage fur coats that I used have been worn and commissioned by women whose names are embroidered within the lining of the coats. So that gave them a sense of presence. So, for instance I had one piece that I called Loleta after the woman who wore the fur coat. There is a sense of manifestation within that sculpture knowing that it used to belong to her, that I named the sculpture after her.
SM: Do you prefer to make your art interactive? Recently you’ve done a couple of works that are.
ADM: They are interactive one way or another. Some are more obvious. Even now if I don’t ask viewers to touch the piece with their hands, the contact is still there. They are still in touch with the work even if there is no direct physical contact. There is still a communicative dialogue with the object. Art is interactive whenever you feel an emotional response towards an inanimate object.
“They are still in touch with the work even if there is no direct physical contact. There is still a communicative dialogue with the object. Art is interactive whenever you feel an emotional response towards an inanimate object.”
I collaborated with two artists, a philosopher and my mom. I asked them to give me their birth certificates; from those, I got their dimensions, their weight, and their length when they were born. From those I made biomorphic, hand blown glass shapes and then I mirrored them. I mirrored the insides of the glass so that meant that whenever they would hold the sculpture not only would they have a sense of presence within it because of the weight of the sculpture, but they would also see their adult reflection in it. It was like a flashback of themselves as newborns. That’s an unusual, new way of interacting with a sculpture that we’re not used too.
SM: What was the name of that series?
ADM: The Creapture Project. Half creature, half sculpture. It was interesting to see people’s reactions and how they felt towards the object. I did one of my mother and she said something interesting. She said, “It’s very strange for me to see you make some sort of baby from my measurements. It’s kind of a role reversal.” That was kind of interesting. She was so touched by it that she bought the sculpture. Now she has it at home and it’s almost like she’s taking care of herself in a very strange way. My mother is someone who is very selfless and she’s always thinking others, she’s always looking after other people, but she never puts herself in the front row. So, to have that object as an interactive medium for her to look after herself and think about herself for once is a very nice thing for me to see. It’s that subtle, emotional interaction that you have with an inanimate object that I’m interested in. That’s the perfect of example of how it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does and you see an emotional response that’s when I find if the piece is successful or not.
SM: So with your art, most of the time you have touch be an aspect of the work not just vision. I know that you’re also interested in massage therapy so I was wondering how they’re related- if your interest in that has anything to do with touch being part of your work.
ADM: All of my interests are linked at the end of the day. Even if it’s not clear to me today why these things could be linked, I’m sure at some point it will be. I’ve always been interested in how human contact is necessary to feel a connection within our species and how it makes us feel alive. I decided to get a diploma in massage therapy at the same time I was starting my course in ceramics. I just sourced a lot of similarities of how the flesh acts in comparison to how the clay will act. I think I told you the anecdote before?
“I’ve always been interested in how human contact is necessary to feel a connection within our species and how it makes us feel alive.”
SM: About the doctors?
ADM: Yeah. One day I went to class and my ceramics teacher told me that the following day he was expecting six surgeons to come in because he had to teach them how to throw at the wheel. That’s just because the way surgeons handle flesh is very similar to how you’re supposed to use a plate. It’s the right amount of firmness. You have to be in control, but not too strong and not too soft. You have to be really aware of your movement and I think there are a lot of similarities in how you handle those materials and the body. So clay and flesh are quite interesting like that. He also said that they would go to a tailor and learn how to sew properly. So they learn the way in which skin acts in comparison to fabric. I use quite a lot of fabric in my work these days so it’s very important to understand these mediums and how they link to us as human beings.
SM: That’s amazing. So then what are your thoughts on this trip so far?
ADM: I can’t really think of a better setting to be inspired and to be surrounded by people that are sort of interested in the same things as I am, but in different fields. So, I’m learning tons not only from our travels, but also through the people I’m meeting. I think that’s a big plus because if I did a trip like this by myself I would be fascinated, but being surrounded by twenty other creatives that are also bringing a similar energy to the trip is an added luxury.
“So, I’m learning tons not only from our travels, but also through the people I’m meeting. I think that’s a big plus because if I did a trip like this by myself I would be fascinated, but being surrounded by twenty other creatives that are also bringing a similar energy to the trip is an added luxury.”
SM: Is there anything we’ve done, a place or an event that has been really inspiring to you?
ADM: Everything has been inspiring even if I’ve been responding to some things in a deeper way than others I think all in all I’ve benefited from everything we’ve seen and experienced. I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries and I was reading a piece on how children need an object to understand the boundaries of their bodies and their mother’s bodies. Apparently, at birth children think that their body and their mother’s body is one and they need a transitional object to understand that distinction. The most common ones are teddy bears and blankets. I was curious to understand if adults consistently need a transitional object to understand ourselves better and I was kind of questioning if art is the medium for us to understand the distinction between nature and us. Basically, just understanding our selves better. For example the Spiral Jetty was quite an incredible artwork, but I think the fascination was in the artwork itself. The landscape was so inspiring and breathtaking, all the elements were there- the salt, the boundary between the sky and the lake. The art was almost just a medium for us to experience that and have a bit of a meditative moment thinking about our existence and bigger questions, but essentially it serves the purpose of that transition.
SM: Definitely. So, what are you doing when this is over? Are you going back to London?
ADM: I’m going back to London. The Frieze Art Fair is going to be around so I have a few shows during that time, but I’m working on another project that I’m really excited about at the moment. It involves a charity called Dramatic Need and I’ve been asked amongst ten other artists to be a part of it. The charity enables children from South Africa to express a past traumatic experience. They are asked to record their story or hand-write them and I was sent quite a few of them. I chose one that really touched me and it’s a story written by this little girl named Meine. She wrote about how she lost her mother at age 8 and how as a result she also lost touch with her half brother. This got me thinking a lot about the weight of words and how one builds a text and how all of these things relate to construction. So I was thinking about a way I could transform every single one of her words into something that has weight to it and how they could be a part of a bigger puzzle and be spread. Spreading the word so that her story would be bigger than just one person. In her story she talks about hearing the news about her mother passing away and taking her school clothes off. So I had the vision of her body feeling quite vulnerable and exposed. Again, how the clay and the body have such a strong link. Bricks are made out of clay. Exposed brick shows her vulnerability. So, I was thinking about wrapping bricks, giving her that sense of protection again. Every single piece of fabric would have one word of her story embroidered on them. Essentially once all of the bricks are wrapped bearing one word per brick. The whole wall would be a monument to her and her story would appear like that. I’m still working on how to build that wall. The event is going to be in November and all the bricks are going to be sold individually. So more than one person will carry a little bit of the load of her story. It’s quite a nice idea. I Skyped with the little girl and I asked for her permission to use her story, which she kindly accepted. She said her story was one of too many stories and if me using hers would help at least one other person than she would be more than happy. I think it gives a whole new purpose to making work when you know you can improve someone’s life or at least make them feel heard and understood and supportive. It’s a really interesting and rewarding journey I’m on by doing this project.
SM: I look forward to seeing it! Thank you Adeline.
Originally published on Promote & Preserve.