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The Mime, the Model and the Dupe

September 9th, 2019

Valérie Blass, Le mime, le modèle et le dupe, 2019, acrylic gesso, paint, plaster, copper, empty chip bag, jumpsuit, resin, epoxy and fiberglass. Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Featuring ten new sculptural works that can be described as witty, subversive, dark and humorous, Valérie Blass’s Le parlement des invisibles is an exhibition to experience in person. Visitors who have been intrigued by Blass’s playful sculptural investigations of the human form will have the opportunity to join the artist tomorrow (September 11) for a conversation about the inspiration for the exhibition, and where her creativity will take her next.

Montreal-born and raised, Valérie Blass is the 2017 winner of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize. Presented annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, the prize awards winners $50,000 and a solo exhibition at the AGO. For her exhibition, Blass created a series of extraordinary sculptures that showcase her knowledge of materials and her imaginative forms.

Take a look at the piece Le mime, le modèle et le dupe (The Mime, the Model and the Dupe). The negative space created by the clothing hints at the human form, allowing our imagination to fill in the blanks – or should we say bodies? – inside each work. But how does Blass create such convincing sculptural forms? In an interview with the Toronto Star she revealed that the process begins with in-studio models.

Wearing wonderfully-colourful thrifted clothing – selected by the artist for both their formal references and aesthetic qualities – models play around with different props and gestures until they get the pose just right. Blass then uses plaster to create a mould of their body. Once the plaster moulds have been outfitted with the clothing, Blass applies a transparent resin and allows the pieces to harden into shape. Then, she cuts the clothing from the mould, reconfiguring the pose and repainting any discoloured patches.

The invisible characters bear the imprint of reality and the real bodies while the other sculptural forms surrounding them become reconstructions of that reality. Blass is particularly interested in the tension and relationships that emerge between the real, the copy and the reproduction. This tense dynamic generates sometimes playful, often funny, and slightly sinister sculptural compositions that invite visitors to use their own imagination to complete the work.

Le mime, le modèle et le dupe is displayed alongside several other works that bear the same colour palette and shape. This visual repetition, representing a gradual disfiguration of the human form, is almost cubist, straddling the edge between the put-together and the fallen apart.  

Come see these incredible works for yourself, on view now on Level 4 of the Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art (Gallery 402). In the meantime, take a look at some visitor responses to these incredible sculptures.

Valérie Blass: Le parlement des invisibles is on view now until December 1. Don’t miss her artist’s talk, tomorrow evening (September 11). Tickets are free, but must be booked online in advance.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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