“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings” ~ Kukuzo Okakura
Less than six months after her second born child, Gabrielle Lasporte was already working on a show. She confides with me, that her close friends and family asked her “What the hell she was doing?”. But that didn’t stop her. Trying to imagine myself in her shoes, changing diapers, laundry piling up, dishes in the sink, another older child and any other demands of being a parent of two kids; a situation that others might be completely overwhelmed in. Yet working on a show sketching, painting and batiking, eagerly and passionately balancing the many conflicting demands. By the end of our interview, my imagination was immediately replaced with an inspiring belief.
This is not a review. But, if I had to sum up Gabrielle Lasporte in three words, those words would be passionate, talented and driven. From the moment we met at Hashtag Gallery, in Toronto I had a hunch I met a special woman. A woman of strength, who is results-driven, creative and beautiful. Inside and out.
“It wasn’t until I had my second son that I decided to create collections. I worked on a show that had a Goddess theme, focusing on women at the Ashanti Room in Toronto”.
Wllnttz: How long have you been doing this?
Gabrielle: “I started with chalk and ink or acrylic as well as textile art, by using scrap fabrics like Dupioni silk, creating mosaic like pieces. I didn’t have a strong connection to those mediums, and I noticed that I had a theme to my artwork…I liked to layer a lot.
At the age of 13 Gabrielle started painting and drawing. Every night before bed, she would sketch from the pages of Vogue Magazine. Then she started working full time, and soon after she had her son she would paint and draw to make extra income on the side, painting mostly black culture art.
Gabrielle: “I would do subject matter that wasn’t readily available. Like a (black) mother and child or a “Dread”. I never wanted to go into art as a business so I always steered away from art related work. I didn’t want to be a graphic designer or an artist and little by little I just started doing works of art. There’s always been hustle (lol) it never stops! I attended George Brown for their 3 year program and became a graphic designer. I have worked for big companies like Sunlife Financial and The Body Shop, and currently I am running my own design studio, and have been for the last 10 years, called Gxcentrik Design.
As I look back, I came to the realization that I have an obsession with women as powerful symbols.
I am obsessed with goddesses and women and rarely draw men unless commissioned. I learnt of Modern Batik in 2003, but didn’t end up taking the workshop until 2007.
Gabrielle’s early Modern Batik work started in 2007.
“I was at this point in my art where I didn’t really like what I was doing. I liked it, but it didn’t feel like it was accomplished or finished. I looked up the artist that spear headed the Modern Batik movement and I took a series of classes. After 4 classes, I really took to it. I think I had a connection with the batik because it was fabrics, dyes and wax. You work with and collaborate with the wax. In modern batik, they believe in controlling the wax to make it look like an actual acrylic or oil painting. But I have different approach. When I put down the wax I work in conjunction with the wax. The fabric will draw the wax in a certain direction. There may be a thread within the weaving that will pull the direction of the wax. I like that you don’t really know what your piece will really look like until the wax removed.
I create artwork by applying layers of dyes overlaying with wax resist to create patterns and seal off sections. This creates an amazing depth to the artwork that I find very satisfying.
When I teach Modern Batik, It’s hard for other artists who work with different mediums, they sometimes have panic attacks. You have to let it go and flow. I am careful of where I put the wax. In the traditional technique you dip. The modern technique you apply it with brushes so you can control and tone it. Its very important to be careful when doing faces.That is also how you maintain the brilliance of the dyes, because they aren’t removed, as with the the dilution of the traditional technique.
There aren’t many people who are working in this medium. Modern Batik Artists in Canada are more arts and crafts focused versus fine art artists. The movement is more apparent in the States and in the UK.
The work’s subjects result in landscaping and faces that are fragmented. The faces are simplistic and not as finessed.A lot of the subject matter I do, people are not as keen on. I think people are drawn to abstract or nature, people are less likely to buy a portrait.
Wllnttz: What do you like about your work and what are some challenges?
Gabrielle: I had to really fight, being a graphic designer, you create for other people with their vision in mind. I was finding that my concept of what would sell would taint my creativity. I would use the filter “If this would sell, so let me do this.” I had to tell myself that this is why you are doing it because you love art and you love what you do, but your’e not going love what you do it if you keep doing things that are not close to you and you are not passionate about it.
I realized that in portraiture I had to take a back-step, because I do it for me at the end of the day, but I also need to sell it. If I take part in a show, I will do portraiture and bring in the abstract elements that I can connect to when creating abstract pieces. That’s how I came up with the concept of life flow, the life flow to me is how I connect with the human element that I am attracted to, in my abstracts.
Above the movement and colourful lines depict Gabrielle’s interpretation of the human life flow. A human intrinsic energy.
Wllnttz: Do you live in the past present or future?
Gabrielle: I live in all.
Inspired by Egyptian art as Gabrielle was doing her research she uncovered the colours she used were historical colours. Using colours that had significant meaning from the past give another dimension and meaning to her work. My favourite colour is yellow, it represents God, or in this case their God. The skin is painted golden, connecting them to power, such as gold and money, even the colour blue has meaning to me. If you don’t live in the past sometimes, you can’t do better for the future. Having kids, you need to think about the future and think about what is going to happen, not in a worried way.
Wllnttz: Tell me more about Déesse.
Déesse is French for goddess. Gabrielle describes her hand drawn monograms necklaces. Hand cut, shaped and brought to life by collaborator, Jenny Greco. The magnificent sterling silver, hand drawn and hand cut pieces are all one of a kind.
I am connected with so many talented people and I like collaborating, especially women. Teaming up with Jenny Greco is an example of that. Creating art with jewellery. We want to look to the future to collaborate with other artists in the future to create new pieces.
Wllnttz: What is your contribution to the artist community, how do you see the future?
Gabrielle: With my experience as a graphic designer, I didn’t have any help, no one wanted to help me or give me a piece of the pie. There are so many people that I know who are so talented. If I see talent I like to uplift and support. With that there is responsibility. If I believe in you, you have to live up to a high expectation. I like to help young artists. Part of me thinks, you can never do what I do or emulate me, so even if I show you something, our work will never be the same.
For her first time as a sponsored artist in Nuit Blanche, in collaboration with H&M, Gabrielle partnered with Fashion Designer, Chinedu Ukabam.
The [RE] GENERATOR Project will incorporate Gabrielle Lasporte’s organic exploration of “flow” using the Modern Batik technique and Chinedu Ukabam’s digital remix of African patterns and mashup of fashion silhouettes. The installation will close the loop between the creators and their audience, allowing them to “weave” their own inspiration into the installation in real time. A special hashtag will be revealed on the website.
The installation takes the donated clothing, which has been broken down and knitted. As well as showcase’s Gabrielle’s Painting/Batik on silk onto a skirt. Mannequins will showcase the projected artwork that are also a reflection of the subject. Encouraging public participation using Instagram.
The hashtag is #hmregenerator to upload images/patterns to Instagram- see the website for details to win $100 gift certificate from H&M. http://www.theregeneratorproject.org
Gabrielle will be participating in our Free Art Friday Toronto this week. She has kindly donated 2 pieces that will be hidden on Friday October 4.
For more information
Déesse – http://www.deessecollective.com
collaborating with: Jenny Greco: http://www.jennygreco.com
Gabrielle’s project portfolio:
[art ] http://www.bygabrielle.com
[collab ] http://www.deessecollective.com