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INTERVIEW: Vicky Sabourin

Where are you visiting St. John's from? Where is your home base?

I was born and raised in Montréal, Québec. I did my BFA at Laval University (Québec city) and did an exchange in Marseille, south of France for a year. I then did an MFA at Concordia University in Montreal where I am still based. My partner is from Halifax and we spend a lot of time there. Halifax is my second home away from home.

When you're not making art, what are three things you might be found doing?

Riding my bicycle around the city. Going for hikes in the woods around the family cottage or in Vermont, USA (Montréal is very close to Vermont).

But the real answer is probably going for coffee with friends at cafés, their house or my house or at the park. Breakfast is my favourite time of the day especially if I can take my time, chat with my partner or with friends and drink lots of coffee.

Do you have any secret talents?

Spotting wildlife

Cooking, baking also!

Karaoke – just love it

Cutting cat claws (maybe just good with mine…)

If you could choose any artist to collaborate on a project with - alive or dead - who would you choose?

Women artists are strong inspiration and some of my all time favorites are:

Annette Messager, Kiki Smith, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Sally Mann, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, Shary Boyle, Cindy Sherman, Georgia Okeeffe, Pina Bausch, Janine Antoni, Justine Kurland, Rachel Whiteread, Katharina Fritsch, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, Francesca Woodman, Anna Atkins, Paryse Martin, Amélie Laurence Fortin.

This year I was living the dream. I was part of the Québec City Biennale and exhibited work along Annette Messager. <3 She was one of my first favorite artist. I didn’t get to meet her unfortunately. But I was so stoked!!!!

I would LOVE to hang out in Virginia with Sally Mann. Driving with the windows down in her pick up truck with one or two dogs on the back seat. When I fantasize about leaving the city and moving to the country, I dream about her life style.

Kiki Smith, the witch of all artists! I feel a real kinship with her work. I think we have similar interests and obsessions: mythology, animals, the woman body, death… There is something about wonder, fragility and strength that really impresses me in her work. Kiki Smith and her work really mesmerize me.

Anna Atkins was a botanist and she created beautiful cyanotypes. She is considered the first woman to use photography. She published 3 books between 1843 and 1854 about British plants and flowers. Her work combines my passion of photography and natural sciences. The delicate shades of white and blue and the ghostly presence of the plants and flowers on the paper are a real delight!

Paryse Martin and Amélie Laurence Fortin are two of my peers. Paryse was one of my teachers at Laval University. She is a really important woman that accompanied me along the departure of my journey in the arts. We already exhibited together (each a solo show in a artist run center in Montreal) but I would love to collaborate with her one day. Amélie Laurence Fortin is an amazing artist also from Québec. We both share a deep interest in the juxtaposition of visual art and natural sciences. She lives between Poland and Québec city and we are working on a collaboration already exploring the world of the unknown deep sea.

FINALLY, if I could collaborate with one artist from my dream team above, today my answer would be Pina Bausch. Her work touches me so deeply. The collaboration would also take me outside of my comfort zone. First we would have to bring her back to life. I have never worked with choreographed movements. Her presence is so strong.

What are you looking forward to most about visiting St. John's and participating in HOLD FAST festival?

I was so excited to come to Newfoundland. I met Jerry Ropson in Sackville during the Handmade Assembly Festival at Struts Gallery and the way that he talked about home was just incredible, it really made me want to come here, meet people from the community and explore your beautiful landscape.

Festivals are also often very intense and alive. They are much different than having an exhibition in a city away from home. I am not saying that exhibitions are boring... but festivals have a magic way to bring people close to each other in a very short period of time.

Could you describe your creative practice in 50 words or less?

I create immersive installation that I activate with performances. I want the viewer to enter my imaginary world that is fantastical and fictional, but also inspired by real life events. My goal is for the visitor to experience a combination of desire and fear, as well as awe and wonder.

How long have been incorporating performance into your work?

I have been performing since 2006, my last year of undergrad. One of my classes was linked to an international performance festival in Québec city called RIAP. It was half a studio production class and a seminar. I got to see a wide range of performance practices and explored the medium as well. It was an amazing class! We were maybe 12 students and we attended to intimate artist talks from every visiting artist. Some were from Canada, others from South America, Ireland and Russia. It has helped me find my own voice. 2 artists were doing “Tableau Vivant” type of performances. At the time I was mostly working with photography but that genre of performance art really resonated with me. Haven't stopped since.

Is narrative important to you in your practice? Do you explore literary references or symbolism?

Literature is a strong inspiration in my work. There is always a narrative component in my work but way different than the linear narrative that you could find in theater. For example, I am interested in durational performance that has no emphasis on a beginning or an end. I see my performances as an extended moment in time.

I am also interested in the thin line between documentary and fiction.

Fairy tales and mythology are also strong influences and sources of inspiration. In my early work I did refer to both of them a lot. I would highlight one personality trait of a persona or pluck one part of the plot that resonated with me; I was never interested in reenacting the story entirely. Symbolism is strong in fairy tales and mythology. I am interested in symbolism as a tool, a language that is part of our collective psyche. An old language that is deeply rooted in our understanding of the world, the way we understand ourselves and also how we communicate and relate with each others.

Have you always combined fibre arts such as needle felting with performance based pieces, and was it a natural combination for you?

My last body of work didn’t include any needle felting, which means that I might not always include it in my work. I started working with needle felting in 2013 with the project “Boreal Alchemy; hermit brothers”. Before that time I integrated taxidermy animals in my installations. Working with needle felting gave me such freedom! I could create my own beasts! I really enjoy the making part of my practice: sculpting clay or ceramics, papier mâché, etc. Felting animals felt natural in that same way.

Can you speak about the consistent portrayal of animals and nature in your work?

Animals and Nature materialize important preoccupations in my work. I am interested in the vulnerability and unpredictability as much as the noble symbols that they embody. The animal presence by my side—the coyote, the bear, the fox, the mouse and the horse—raises the debate between the civilized and the wild, the childhood fantasy world and the controlled adult world.

As a kid for years I wanted to become a veterinarian until I realized that they euthanize animals. Now I felt dead beasts, how appropriate! During my childhood and teens, I was part of a theater school and each year I had to recite fables and poems for my final exams. Many of them used animals as a metaphor for human interactions and conditions. Likewise, in my work, the animal is a multifaceted; it has an important role in the narrative of the piece and addresses my own relation with nature and animals, but it is also a metaphor for human relations and interactions.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your HOLD FAST project?

Yes sure! First of all, I am the artist in residence for the Hold Fast festival which means that the Eastern Edge Gallery is my open studio for the entire month of July. So please come and stop by the gallery before the festival begins. For the festival, I will be performing the piece “Warmblood”. I brought with me a life size felted horse. Right now it is lying on the gallery floor like a big carpet, all flat and empty.


The tableau vivant Warmblood explores the very intimate relationship between man and horse. In my most recent installation and performance works, I have been investigating tensions between the wild and the civilized. In Warmblood, I choose to focus on the highly symbolic motif of the horse, at once noble, fierce, devoted and emblematic of the power dynamic man maintains with the world.

Both symbolic and conceptual, my tableau vivant explores the fantasized world of childhood and the one, controlled, of adulthood. The figure of the cowboy is deeply imprinted in our collective imagination, from images of war to film culture; it perfectly crystallizes fantasies and anxieties we sometime carry until maturity. In articulating this fantasy world through installation and performance art, I establish a narrative focused on the link between the rider and his horse, trying to understand how the man can end up sacrificing his animal to save his own life – the ultimate sacrifice for the horseman.

While the title, Warmblood refers to the eponymous horse breed; the exhibition pinpoints the very western obsession of the wilderness and its captivating and seducing power. Using elements from tale and psychoanalysis, this new body of work viscerally explore the inner animalism and the idea of control.

Visit Vicky's website here:

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