Yechel Gagnon - Oceanic Legends
The artworks created for the series of Oceanic Legends explore the pinnacle point of the technique I started to develop more than 20 years ago, using at the time a simple sheet of plywood. This material has captivated me and it continues to compel me to seek its potential, its mystery and all of its expressive facets. Over the last decade, I have developed my own technique of creating custom plywood whereby I interlay various tinted and natural veneers allowing me access to a fascinating array of colours, nuances and textures.
Some of the tinted veneers I employ are dyed in France by artisans using ancestral methods passed on from generation to generation. These paper-thin veneers are dyed throughout their thickness allowing them to express rich hues. Other veneers that I use are natural woods from around the world, displaying a wide range of natural tones while having diverse and intricate grain textures. Within my process, I sand and router down to the surface to reveal the exact intended colour. Much to many people’s surprise, I don’t use any paint in my work; only wood, obtaining a personal language of mark making that is both sculptural and painterly.
Working in synergy with the specific properties of different woods, I carve, I rip away, I draw, I insculp to discover layers which reveals the hidden colours to create my imagery. With this process, I interweave my visual language that oscillates between abstraction and representation with those intrinsic to the material. This effect evokes an imaginary landscape where land and sea appear before us, where cavernous spaces are excavated and sweeping valleys emerge. We perceive the work as an aerial perspective and then all of sudden we are plunged into a terrestrial realm. An oscillation between the macro and the micro fluctuates before our eyes like fractals. It is the viewer’s interpretation that dictates the scale of what is being seen. These different viewpoints are similar to traditional Chinese painting where one can see many different perspectives intertwine all into one image.
When I travel, I explore the land with its crevasses, its hollows, its textures; all which have claimed my imagery. When I return to my studio, these impressions are excavated and translated into an artistic manifestation. Oceanic Legends is a series of these carved bas-reliefs exploring a sense of belonging to a land, being a part of something much larger than ourselves. Art history takes us back to the first marks made on caved walls by our prehistoric ancestors in order to communicate, revere and express the spiritual world. For me, this connotes to an esteemed connectedness to the land, to history, to humanity and to the creative process. The natural world and the act of creating are imbued with this sacredness.
©2001 Yechel Gagnon