Interview with Dalglish Winner Anouk Desloges

Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre has recently announced this year’s winners of the Dalglish Family Foundation Venture Award. The award, the only one of its kind in Canada, aims to support entrepreneurship in craft and design.

This year’s winners are Anouk Desloges and Shane Weaver. Anouk has just finished her three-year term as an Artist-in-Residence at Harbourfront Centre, working in sculpture and embroidery. We had the opportunity to speak with her to learn a little more about her work and where the award will take her.

Your work is involved with giving the intangible and abstract a physical appearance. How do you begin to determine/consider rendering an appearance for “something abstract”?

Until recently, I have mainly concentrated my research on drawing abstract compositions that I transfer onto acrylic sheets in the form of embroidery. Despite moving away from the representational, I have created images in which identifiable elements are suggested. Concretely, a piece may have an overall abstract appearance, but up close; it reveals an accumulation of recognizable items such as entangled rope forming tight knots.

Although, my drawings are created intuitively, I secretly make up stories in which each component reacts to its surrounding. For example, when I created “Inside Out,” I assembled distinct groups of knots into two massive clusters. Symbolically, they represent various organizations of ideas and people. Most of them are peacefully making their way out of the frame, but in the middle, some of them get trapped inside a circle. In that specific area, they turn inside out and the viewer is left to see the reverse side of the embroidery. To me, this piece is an allegory that speaks about human relationships, but to the public, it might simply be a beautiful arrangement of knots.

Anouk Desloges. Inside Out, 2016. Textile embroidery through plexiglass, latex paint, 36 x 36″. Image courtesy of the artist.

How do you feel embroidery lends itself to this?

As a daughter of garment manufacturers, the use of thread comes very naturally into my practice. Since they were practically working 24/7, I have spent a fair amount of time at the factory, experimenting with an unlimited amount of materials. I have stitched through flexible plastic, acrylic sheets, metal, paper, fabric, etc.

On the other hand, my training as a sculptor leads me to introduce fundamental notions that are usually ascribed to sculpture. For instance: I play with scale, which invites the public to get closer or to move away from the piece and thus, to prompt a special interaction. I also use superposition in order to thicken the piece and to add depth to the image and, finally, I accumulate texture and contrast. I believe the embroidery binds it together.

Anouk Desloges. Knots Bouquet, 2013. Textile embroidery through plexiglass, latex and iron paint. 59 x 30″. Image courtesy of the artist.

How has your practice changed since joining the Harbourfront Centre as Artist-in-Residence in 2013?

The Artists-in-Residence at Harbourfront Centre are navigating between craft and visual arts. It is amazing to see how much they are willing to push the limits of their material in order to express their ideas. As mentioned above, my work is becoming more and more abstract. The drawing remains present, but its importance diminishes to the benefit of the material and the process of making. All together, the acrylic, the thread, the laser-cut shapes, the narrative and the techniques are pushed further to become a whole. Just like a craft artist.

What is your plan for the award?

My career in Toronto has seen me participate in a variety of juried group shows for which I have created exclusive pieces. My next project is to build a new body of work that will be presented in the context of a solo exhibition. I will take advantage of this event to launch a catalogue that will introduce a selection of recent embroideries and share meaningful information about my career. Since I moved from Québec City three years ago to start my residency at Harbourfront Centre, I am thrilled to be offered the financial resources to build a substantial project that will help me connect with a greater audience in this city.

Anouk Desloges. XX XX, 2015. Textile embroidery through plexiglass, latex paint. 29 x 22 x 0.5″. Image courtesy of the artist.

You’ve recently finished your residency at Harbourfront Centre. What’s next?

I am currently involved in several projects such as group shows, collaborative initiatives, and my future solo show. After I move into a new studio space in Toronto that I will be able to sustain in the long term, I wish to make everything happen and even more! My goal is to lay the groundwork for my art career self-sufficiency and to be a full-time practicing artist. And again, thank you so much to Harbourfront Centre and to the Dalglish Family Foundation for your support.