Sculptor Adeline de Monseignat and the intimacy of her work.
Q: You currently split your time between London and Mexico City, but you were born in Monaco to parents of Dutch descent. How does your diverse background inform your work, and why have you chosen to spend your time in the UK and Mexico?
I like to think of my work as a record of my experiences. Moving to London made sense for the 17-year old I was at the time, eager to live in a bubbling multi-cultural city and surrounding myself with like-minded artists. After having spent 13 years in London, studio rents feeling out of reach, the move to Mexico felt right. Despite the many challenges moving to a new country, adapting to a new culture, and learning yet another language entail, it felt like the perfect opportunity to re-channel my energy, reawaken my senses and re-evaluate my aspirations. It was my partner Pablo who first introduced me to Mexico, his motherland. After two-months of stone carving in this wonderful country, discovering its vast array of marbles, its incredible museums, craftsmanship and more, I was sold and moved soon after.
Q: Material plays such a large part in your work, how does that affect your creative process? Does ideation come before or after sourcing materials?
Every material is loaded in history and meaning. As a sculptor, it feels like a responsibility to understand each of them to their fullest – their potential, their weaknesses and, most of all, their origin. I first fell in love with marble while visiting a quarry in Tuscany in 2014. It made me want to work with it as a material but not before doing some in-depth research on its place of birth first. This marked the start of the research which soon translated into my short film ‘In the Flesh’, shot in the marble quarries of Carrara, a film on the relationship between stone and mountain as mother and child. Thanks to this experience and understanding of it, I felt like I could work with marble more confidently and more respectfully. An artwork is essentially a collaboration between material and idea, one informing the other, and vice versa. And to the question ‘which comes first’, I feel like it’s a real ‘chicken or the egg’ dilemma.
Adeline De Monseignat, Mother HEB/ Loleta, Mother in Child, 2012, Courtesy of the artist
Q: You have previously said that carving numbs all of your senses, do you believe this is an important factor in creating your pieces - the absence of sense and outside influences from your creative process?
More than important, it seems an inevitable and serendipitous factor I have learned to appreciate. As headphones muffle every surrounding noise, gloves prevent your fingertips from touch, masks shield your mouth and nose, and goggles protect yet blur your vision due to the obstructive marble dust sticking to their outer surface, it would be fair to say that having all senses numbed does heighten your concentration on the act of carving. It enhances the dialogue between stone and sculptor, making stone carving a meditative practice.
Q: Male sculptors seem to hold a more prominent place in history over the many influential female sculptors who have been omnipresent in the field. How has being a woman affected, or inspired, your work?
The art world is, nowadays more than ever, conscious of the gender inequality and divide. Movements like #5womenartists have spoken up about the lack of female artist representations in museums and galleries worldwide. More and more opportunities, open calls, and awards are given to female sculptors, and yet there is still so much to be done. I look forward to a day when I will no longer be considered a female sculptor, but a sculptor full stop. I have found that all my male sculptor colleagues have been incredibly inclusive of me, and I like to think it’s because they don’t see me as anything other than a sculptor full stop. However, being a woman can of course only influence my practice, as my work is born from my guts, as an extension of myself. I have always been fascinated by the female body’s potential for holding life from within, a body within a body, and that inevitably translates through my work, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Adeline De Monseignat, Échelle Charnelle, 2018, Courtesy of the artist
Q: You have also performed and directed a short film called “In The Flesh". How different was that experience for you compared to your creative process while working on your sculptures and installations?
Making a film is such a different language than sculpting. Working within a team of ten people makes the whole process a lot more collaborative. I have learned to trust every single one of them while I myself had to focus on my own tasks. As I wrote the script, the role of The Sculpture was meant to be for a trained performer. Yet, every time I would discuss the project with colleagues, the same question, or rather challenge, was raised, “Why don’t you perform? You know the character of The Sculpture better than anyone else.” I hated them for being right, but I listened to them. Performing, naked, bones frozen by the mountain air, under the scrutiny of quarry workers, while repeatedly having to check the monitor’s playback, has been one of the hardest challenges. I felt incredibly vulnerable and yet empowered by the uniqueness and privilege of the experience. This led me to realize that the main similarity between performing and sculpting lie in the performative aspect of both disciplines, the involvement of the body and concentration of the mind.
Q: What’s next?
I am currently on an artist residency at Hogchester Arts in Devon, UK, which will result in a group show opening July 20th. An installation of three large sculptures of mine have travelled to the Museum Federico Silva, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the only museum dedicated to sculpture in Latin America, and will open October 18th. I will then start a residency at Casa Wabi, which will last almost 7 weeks, in an area of Mexico highly recognized for its craftsmanship, Oaxaca. I am hoping to take that time to work on some of the projects that have lately been lingering in my mind.
Adeline De Monseignat, Penelope’s Wheel II (L’attesa), 2017, Courtesy of the artist