Conversation With Valerie Collart And Manuel Canu


Before the opening of the exhibition “The Whims of the Eyelid” by Valerie Collart and Manuel Canu, produced in collaboration with ‘Ok Corral’ gallery, we sat down with Valerie and Manuel and discussed architecture , design, relocating from one’s home country and also the common narratives and processes that run through both of there work.

Q: Has moving to Copenhagen changed or influenced your work / creative process?
If so could you tell us a bit about this development?

V: After I graduated in 2006 from the Art school “Villa Arson” in Nice (France), I have lived few years in Paris and I finally moved to Copenhagen in 2008. Looking at it retrospectively I realised that it has had a very positive impact on my work; since I feel to have found a good base where I find it easier to concentrate and work without too many distractions. Copenhagen also offers affordable studio spaces, an inclusive art community and a very good support for production with different possibilities of fundings and grants..

M: I moved to Denmark just after finishing my BA in Ceramic Design in England. So I would say that I developed my own creative process once I had moved here. The biggest change has been shifting my practice as my previous work (predominantly ceramic works) was mainly design based and decorative. Now I find myself working more often on site-installations and sculptural work. Since I found that working only with ceramics can be technically limiting in expressing my ideas.

V: I also appreciate the recent developments of the Scandinavian art scene in general that has developed immensely in the past few years and is very inspiring to work within.

Q: Both of your works pose questions about time and decay, as well as referencing architectural details. Is your work informed by a particular historical period of architecture?
And both of you being expats, has Danish architecture and design become more prominent in your work since your arrival?

M: I am very fascinated by ancient architecture in general, such as Classical, Romanesque and Baroque. I don’t think Danish architecture and design have specifically influenced my work, but I can’t avoid noticing a cleaner look in my work, since I moved to Denmark,…. so maybe I am spicing my work with “Danish Minimalism”.

V: For me architecture has always been a very important source of inspiration and it has been developed in obvious ways with some of my previous works. Modernist architecture presents something radically formal and it’s use of material has often inspired me. The architecture of ruins and the way we reflect on the human condition and our own sense of fragility have also been a strong line of reflection in some of my works.

Q: When does an object transform from being decorative object to being an art form?
And how much does this depend on the space they are exhibited in?
V: I believe that the moment an object crosses the line from being a decorative object to becoming an art object is when the viewer is impacted in ways that unsettle his or her own aesthetic experience and can raise questions about it’s meaning, and at the same time reveals or questions it’s beauty.

M: I believe it is all about the context in which an object is displayed. The curatorial part is as important as the object, so I believe that equal attention should be given to both space and artwork.

Q: What process do you find expresses your ideas clearest, working within a gallery context, or creating for someone’s personal space (i.e. living space)?

V: In an exhibition setting, I gather images and objects to organise the conditions for a contemplative aesthetic experience. So the ideal situation for my work would be a gallery space or another specific exhibition environment with different characteristics other than a white cube situation..

M: Right now I am focusing more on sculptural and installation work, so by its nature those art forms are displayed in galleries or museums. This gives me more structure to develop and explore my work.

V: I think that the most important thing for me is to feel challenged and to be able to renew my practice and work in order to keep the reflection and research around it alive and interesting. Sometimes the space where the works are being shown offers a kind of challenge the implies a space outside ones comfort zone, so it invites a transformative experience and makes one question ones own environment.

Q: Are you interested in playing with the balance between design object and conceptual sculpture, or do you feel the meaning of the object is dependant on the space it is being exhibited in?

V: I see a lot of inspiring designers and artists playing with the balance between design object and conceptual sculpture, and I think that it is one of the most interesting areas when it comes to challenging the possibilities of materials and their ways of expression.

M: My work takes visual references from architecture and this is on display most in my sculptural works. These references are sometimes abstracted but can still be glanced at in my work. When it comes to creating onsite-installations, the work can’t be dissociated by the space as the space becomes integrated with the artwork.

V: Today, there is sometimes a thin line between design projects and art pieces. I haven’t really dug into that line of enquiry but I think that the ambiguous nature of some objects allow us to reflect on it independent of the space or context it is presented in to.

Natalia Enge