Diane T. Tremblay

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De Julio-Paquin, 2006

Turgeon, 2004

Grande, 1998

De Julio-Paquin, 1998

Gélinas, 1987



DIANE TREMBLAY: THE MALLEABILITY OF MEMORY BY JOHN K. GRANDE


There are allusions to a collective cultural memory in the artifacts and elements Diane Tremblay reworks, colours, weaves and constructs. These labour intensive artworks fuse the appropriated object and textile and manufactured materials (all of which derive from nature) to create strange, hybrid forms. The use of textiles predominates inTremblay's art and is a natural evolution from the earlier paintings and three-dimensional constructions seen in earlier shows such as the impressive Femmes Forces contemporary womens' art show held at the Musée du Québec in 1987. Unlike the Arte Povera artists in Italy, who like wise appropriated materials and juxtaposed objects to make social statements, Tremblay alludes to the threatened nature of the human identity and persona, even of culture in general, in contemporary society. It is the intertwining of human culture and the culture of nature, (read in the subtext reframing of the language of material production) in Tremblay's art that builds an aura of mystery into her work. The biomorphic, organic growth forms she creates also allude to our origins in nature and continued dependence on her ressources, despite the erasure of memory and identity that accompanies the exhausting cycle of production, manufacture and image motifs in today's consumer culture.

When "manufactured" objects and elements, many of which already have a formal history as clothing, household objects, etc. are reworked into wall mounted sculptures and installation works a strange kind of alliteration takes place. The object is rephrased, causing us to reinterpret our formal reading of the artwork. This explains the unusual hybridity of Tremblay's art. We are familiar with and understand the purpose, history and character of the materials Tremblay reworks, but transformed as they are into ontological enigmas they raise questions about personal identity in expression. The language of manufacture and production, and high technology has raised the profile of imagery to the detriment of real tactile experience of the world aroud us.

We see her building an open struture out of plywood recuperated from a cottage in the Saguenay region of Québec. Once a functional structural material, it has been discarded. It now becomes an open "wall", with one side painted a rose colour meeting another pale blue one. Allusions here are to the yin-yang duality, the male and female, in each of us. An elliptical egg made out of Tremblay's own clothes and bound up with string stands in front, an enigmatic and powerful symbol of the cycle of life, of birth, gestation and life. Made out of discarded clothes, once the portable armour worn on our bodies, that is usually then thrown out, this "egg" merges personal allegory with the formal structural social history of the walls behind it. Both are discarded and recuperated and reformed to be given a new meaning.

The irony inherent to taking something that once had a use or function and then reforming it to look like natural form(s) is intentional. In Méduse, for example, a jellyfish has been constructed out of the cloth, recycled carpet and rope. Manufactured materials are used to represent a biomorphic form in three dimensions.

In Mémoire, where Tremblay has affixed hundreds of tiny paper squares, hand coloured with ink, to create a stained glass effect over the abandoned metal armature of a couch, the labour intensive aspect of Tremblay's craftwork is almost ludicrous. The backside of Mémoire likewise has a support structure woven into it made of old window blinds. In a sense Tremblay deconstructs prefabricated materials and refabricates them into allegories of contemporaneity, to the way our memories and identities involve a kind of erasure that comes with the endless production, replacement and displacement of objects, materials, and people in today's consumer society. Tremblay plays on and with the central ambiguity of the social persona, by presenting more than one simultaneous meaning in endlessly reforming materials into art objects.

John K. Grande


Unpublished text



John K. Grande, journalist and art critic, lives and works in Montréal since 1987. History of art graduate from the University of Toronto, he has contributed to numerous art magazines: Artforum International, Vice Versa, International Sculpture, Espace Sculpture, Vie des Arts and Canadian Forum. In 1994, he received the Lison Dubreuil art critic award (le prix Lison Dubreuil de la critique d'art) from Espace Sculpture.

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