Art Seen: International

YANN POCREAU // THE DARLING FOUNDRY

by Tina Gelsomini

“It is alive, that is what I like about this piece,” Yann Pocreau gestures over his shoulder to monumental Cathédrale, the largest of his three works currently wrapping up a two-month run at the Darling Foundry under the exhibition Projections.

The result of Pocreau’s original idea for the exhibition, Cathédrale is a sweeping installation in which an image of the Saint-Laurent church taken from a 1930s postcard has been reproduced to its original scale, running lengthwise along the gallery’s hall and wrapping around the far left corner. The gothic architecture is punctured by three holes, hammered and punched through drywall, each of which let through a beam of impossible sunlight streaming through the windowless gallery, artificially crafted by light engineer Francois Marceau. Debris is scattered along the floors, dust particles drift through the light refusing to settle, as if Pocreau had just smashed through the wall moments before my arrival.

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert. Work: Cathédrale, 2013. Photographic mural, lighting system and response. 385 cm x 1402 cm. Lights: François Marceau.

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert. Work: Cathédrale, 2013. Photographic mural, lighting system and response. 385 cm x 1402 cm. Lights: François Marceau.

There is an immersive and performative element to the way that people interact with the work, Pocreau notes, himself standing up on several occasions to wave a hand through the beams, crunch on the rubble, or trace his hand along the exposed drywall of the fissure’s edge. Having just held an artist talk at the gallery days before, he has had the opportunity to engage with viewers firsthand and is still buzzing off the experience.

While Cathédrale is not Pocreau’s first installation, the other two works that comprise the exhibition, one a small bas-relief sculpture and the other a 16mm film animation, are firsts for the artist – marking a departure from his better-known photography. “This is a step I wanted to take forward,” he says assuredly, “the third dimension is exciting right now.” Though his execution has shifted, Pocreau’s fixation on natural light and architecture remain central throughout Projections, manifesting in the haunting arches and vivid stained glass of medieval gothic churches. “What I like about gothic churches is that they were built using natural light as a tool to construct ideas, ideologies, dogmas,” Pocreau notes. “I didn’t find anything more fitting.” Having long dabbled in archiving, he explains how he was drawn to postcard representations of these worship sites in particular. His response reveals the meticulous photographer within him, as he speaks not only about the cards themselves, but of the process of capturing the original images. “I’m sure when they were photographing the photo there was light coming out of it,” he says, yet the cards themselves reveal only a static, formulaic and mass-produced version of the actual splendor.

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert  Work: Cathédrale, 2013 Photographic mural, lighting system and response. 385 cm x 1402 cm Lights: François Marceau

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert. Work: Cathédrale, 2013. Photographic mural, lighting system and response. 385 cm x 1402 cm. Lights: François Marceau

His choice to intervene in these images, infusing them with powerful displays of light, thus came naturally. But the decision also hints at his own frustration with the medium, “There is a relation I want to have with light, and I thought photography would be the best way to reach it,” he suggests, “… and then I thought, well if I’m not satisfied, I have to rewind or start over.” The works within Projections therefore capture not only the luminous challenging of a muted form, but present the struggle of an artist to redefine his own work and relation to light.

As our discussion moved back to the individual works, Yann suggested that we forgo our seats in front of Cathédrale to move about the gallery. We made our way through the hall, back towards the entrance of the exhibition where a transparent looper is projecting a 16mm reel of Projection. To create this piece, the artist first filmed a postcard of a church for several minutes, then hand-scratched roughly 5,800 individual frames over a period of eight months. The effect creates a dazzling battle of light wherein his light intervention begins at the center of a stained-glass window, eventually swallowing up the entire frame. “I wanted to stay very formal about the light going through my scratching and not a copy,” Pocreau points out as he explains his risk-ridden choice to screen the original of Projection as opposed to an exhibition duplicate. As his scratching fills up the frame in a final moment of victory, these few brief seconds seem to justify his decision.

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert Work: Traversée (St-Laurent church, de la Trinité church, St-Étienne-du-Mont church), 2013 Post cards, light boxes, saw cutting. 23 cm x 28 cm

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert. Work: Traversée (St-Laurent church, de la Trinité church, St-Étienne-du-Mont church), 2013. Post cards, light boxes, saw cutting. 23 cm x 28 cm

A similar intervention is achieved in Traversée, a series that draws upon the repetitive nature of the postcard images. To view this work, we round the corner once again back to the hall of Cathédrale, where three small framed bas-relief sculptures hang discretely.  Each of the sculptures are composed of fifty-one postcards piled one upon the other, with only the final card’s image exposed. Incisions of different lengths have been made diagonally through each stack to reveal a light that shines through; another mimicking instance of engineered natural light.

As we stand once again amongst the darkened hall of the Darling Foundry, the gallery’s industrial architecture provides what Yann describes as an important “encounter” with his re-imagined gothic sights. “The Darling Foundry is so marked,” he notes, pointing out the aged columns and exposed piping along the ceilings. Throughout our conversation, Porceau insists that his project could never have worked in the typical “white cube” gallery setting. In fact, the works in the exhibition were pitched only to the Darling Foundry, as if the works were made to coexist with this space. Though he hopes to have Projections travel in the future, it is clear that the effects of the Foundry’s presence will be challenging to recreate. As we pause to take in the weight of these interactions, it is hard to imagine that in only a few days the walls and artworks will be taken down, the lights dismantled and the ticking loop of Projection silenced.

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert Work: Projection, 2013 Intervention on 16 mm film, projector, base. 3.15 minutes

Projections, exhibition view, Yann Pocreau, 2013 © Maxime Boisvert. Work: Projection, 2013. Intervention on 16 mm film, projector, base. 3.15 minutes




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Yann Pocreau has participated in several solo and group exhibitions in Canada and in Europe. He lives and works in Montreal.

Tina Gelsomini lives in Montreal and currently works for the non-profit media arts organization Cinema Politica.

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