My island is not merely
a parcel of land surrounded by water; it is the focal point
of all my horizons. I was born in the Magdalen Islands on an
island so small I could see the sea all around me just by turning
my head. With one glance, I could contemplate the whole world.
The landscape and culture of islands have shaped my view of
the world and have made of me an islomane, a word coined by
Lawrence Durrell to describe an individual who, although apparently
normal, is afflicted by a sort of mental disturbance and experiences
an indescribable intoxication at the mere idea of a small parcel
of land surrounded by water. I have cultivated my emotional
and aesthetic relationship with the maritime landscape and culture
like most islanders who find themselves on the mainland and
continue to identify with their island roots.
Over the years I have translated this attachment into a body
of work that includes sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs
and videos. A few evocative titles: Once upon a time there
was a sea, Low Tide, Happy the man who, like Ulysses...,
The Wreck of the Angelus. Other works entitled Cod,
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, Cod Liver, Fish Meal, A Fishy
Business and Masts address an inescapable aspect
of maritime culture: fishing. The North Atlantic cod moratorium
decreed by Canada in 1992 was just another signal forecasting
the irrevocable decline of a gathering culture and a lifestyle.
Teach a man to fish, and he'll empty the sea.
My most recent works
explore other aspects of the maritime landscape. In Noah’s
Landing (2007), I revisted the myth of the flood and Noah’s
landing with his precious cargo of species threatened with extinction.
Archipelago (2008), presented at the Biennale nationale
de sculpture contemporaine in Trois-Rivières, Quebec,
took the shape of a drawing/navigational table, with a sound
track composed of hundreds of titles of books starting with
the French word “île” recited as a litany,
hammering the space like waves. I created the in situ piece
of Nieznana Wyspa (“Unknown Island”, 2008)
in the port of Gdynia, Poland, as a reminder of the unknown
islands we wrongly think are found only in far-off places beyond
perilous seas. Utopiae Insulae Figura (2008-09), inspired
by Thomas More’s famous essay about the island of Utopia,
was the fruit of a journey between my island, More’s utopian
model and a sampling of man-made islands, a new reality that
As part of a residence
in Wales, spring 2009, I installed a permanent piece along the
footpath leading to the camera obscura in Aberystwyth: a large
convex mirror perched on a lamp post. Entitled Sentinel,
it reminds us that “only a mirror can tell the objective
beauty of the sea”. Invited to produce a work in Caraquet,
New Brunswick in connection with the Acadian World Congress,
I returned to the theme of our declining fishing culture, creating
Arrivage, a collection of large crates installed in
the water and along the shore bearing the names of fish and
their country of origin, now that the stocks have disappeared
from our shores.
With the collaboration
of the Manif d’art, the Quebec City biennal, I participated
in the 2009 edition of the Vento Sul Biennale in Curitiba, Brazil.
The Equation for Water (Equação da água)
is an abstract representation of water that appears to be scientific
and emotionless, like a map or a diagram. But far from being
an arid formula, the piece stretches out in the shadow of the
bridge like so many lily pads on the lake reflecting the Opera
de Arame, in a nod to Monet’s Water Lily Pond.
The impulses that drive
me to explore the evocative power of islands and archipelagos
led me to the writings of geographer Françoise Péron.
The title of one of her articles has inspired the title of my
October 2009 exhibition Désirs d'îles (Desiring
Islands) presented at the Centre d'exposition Circa. This body
of work is yet another expression of my islomane spirit, of
the island within me that I haul around like a child pulls a
Through in situ works
often inspired by legends and myths, shoals and shipwrecks,
it’s always a bit of my own story that finds expression
in new landscapes. At the same time, I remain permeable to the
places and the people in them, developing new rapports with
the maritime world and the culture of islands. New perspectives
are born, because when the sea stretches out as far as the eye
can see, the mind sets about inventing horizons.