Quentin Garel at Galerie Got

Walking down the opulent St. Paul Street, between rows of private galleries, filled with vibrant colored canvases and Jeff Koon-like sculptures placed by the vitrines, Got Gallery stands out as it presents a humbler, more down-to-earth approach.

Upon entering the gallery, carefully carved sculptures and expressive charcoal drawings of the faces and busts of animals from the savanna by French artist, Quentin Garel (b. 1975), fill the gallery space. Presented for the first time in Canada, Garel’s aim for the exhibition, Flesh and Bones, is for the viewers to feel as though they have stepped into a different century, which he successfully achieves through the realism of the of the animal’s facial features; the gallery has been transformed into a cabinet of (large) curiosities.

At first glance, these sculptures appear as wood. However, through closer inspection, one discovers that these artworks are, in fact, made of bronze. Garel subtracts blocks of resinous wood with, perhaps unconventionally, a chainsaw. He then casts the works in bronze, which reveals the detailed structures of the wood, essentially, making the bronze appear as wood. Lastly, he applies various chemicals over the bronze to either polish specific areas of the surface or to alter the coloring of the metal in order to enhance the sense of realism. Effectively, the ancient-looking sculptures toy with the viewer’s perception of time: are these works contemporary or have they been unearthed from the past?

Flesh and Bones is curated through Garel’s artistic process of his sculpture-making, focusing on the craftsmanship found within the details of the flesh and bones of the animals. As the artist begins his process through sketches, his preliminary charcoaled drawings are hung along the gallery walls near the sculptures represented. Suitably, the series of drawings are called Palimpsest; a chaotic composition is expressed through the overlapping busts of animals covering the surface of the paper. For example, Palimpsest IX portrays a realistically detailed face of a gorilla, covering a large part the drawing through the center. The profile of an elephant is positioned on the right-hand side, facing towards the gorilla. Behind the gorilla are the busts of three ostriches, looking towards opposite directions as they peer over the gorilla’s head. Situated besides the drawing is a larger-than-life, stoic face of a gorilla, called Masque de Gorille (210 x 110 x 110 cm), through the animal’s deep-set eyes and frowning mouth. On the opposite side stands, Atruche (72 x 24 x 28 cm), the bust of an ostrich on a plinth. A sense of a tender artistic touch is felt through the elegant curvature of the ostrich’s neck.

Not only does the exhibition deceives the viewer’s impressions, as it is easy to forget that these sculptures are not actual skeletal compositions of animals recovered from the ground, however, it showcases Quentin Garel’s artistic process from idea to its realization. At first, these series of sculptures of over five years were to insinuate a satire of animal trophies and the human ego, however, the artist prefers to carve out these fantastic beasts simply for the pleasure of the creative process. Flesh and Bone is on display until April 30th, 2017.

Flesh and Bones is at Galerie Got from March 31st – April 30th, 2017. Check out their website for more details.

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