The Puzzle Project: An interview with Alexandra Levasseur

Alexandra Levasseur is creating a surreal and emotional world for her viewers to fully immerse themselves in. She transforms and brings to life her inspirations via film, paintings and her new ceramic works.

This three phase experience includes her pieces from her solo show ‘Puzzle’ at Galerie C.O.A in 2016. The show was described as ‘Disconcerting, touching, surreal, and magnetic, the work of this artist explores the complex spectrum of human emotions, forever in motion. This movement refers to the transformations, and the shifting in emotions, locations, atmospheres, etc. Alexandra talks about her exhibition as a mind game which interrogates the origin of life and the utility – and destiny – of human consciousness. The collection of artworks conveys a poetic reflection, in the artist’s attempt to illustrate the refinement of certain scientific theories. Levasseur shows us human beings, overwhelmed and in search of meaning; people who are emerging from, nature and water.’

The second phase “La Singularité”, is an animated short based on a series of paintings titled “Puzzle“. The animated transitions between each tableau, they serve to represent transformations of matter and to explore notions of time and space. Each frame was hand-drawn on paper, scanned, and digitally coloured .  La Singularité film was produced with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2017.

Alexandra is now further transforming the works from “Puzzle” with her 3rd phase of the project, bringing 10 figurative pieces to life. Her incredible ceramic sculptures will be on view at Galerie C.O.A late next year. 

I interviewed Alexandra about the upcoming show, her film and sculpture experiences and the meaning of her works.

I am excited to hear about your upcoming installation at Galerie C.O.A next year. I know you have been experimenting with life-sized ceramic sculptures for this exhibition. How has that been going so far?

It certainly has been really exciting to start working with a new medium. I began the research in January, starting to experiment with different types of clay and building bigger and bigger pieces. I built my first life-sized sculpture during July and August, and it is being fired in the kiln at this very moment. At the end of this week, I will see if my piece made it through the first steps! In the meantime, I am making numerous color and finish tests with different kind of glazes until I get the right result. Seems like ceramics is a lot of testing. My idea is to create 10 figurative pieces along with some other more “environmental” sculptures that will compose the installation. The project is scheduled on a 12 months period of work. This installation is the 3rd phase of a larger project entitled “Puzzle” that is to say:

  • Phase 1: A series of 17 paintings
  • Phase 2: A short animated film “La Singularité”
  • Phase 3: A tridimensional immersive installation composed of ceramic sculptures.

You are recreating a scene from your animated film “La Singularité”. Can you tell our readers about it, in case they haven’t had an introduction to that yet? 

La Singularité is a 4 minutes short-animated film made with pencil on paper and colored digitally. It is the second phase of Puzzle project and based on the series of paintings which was the first phase. I created the storyboard for the animation, using all the 17 paintings of the series as if they were a scene of the film. Then, I imagined the movement and the transitions between each scene in order to create a journey through the images.

You seem to always be experimenting with new mediums and new directions, do you feel this is important for you as an artist to keep creativity and interest and inspiration?

Absolutely. The fact of using painting, animated film and recently sculpture mediums have allowed me to deepen the different dimensions of my statement (i.e. existentialism, surrealism, mystery, time and change.) Each medium inspires and helps improve the other on every level (technique, content and form), and provides spectator different lectures of my message.

You mentioned to us in the last interview that art is a form of therapy for you. I know the animated film was based on your Puzzle series, can you tell us what that series meant to you?

The title of the Puzzle project comes from a quest for the truth in the unexplained. The central theme is the mystery of human life in time and space. Influenced by the work of theorist and filmmaker Jean Epstein and by physicist and philosopher Étienne Klein, I seek to explore the links between Physics and different art forms, and to contribute to the intriguing conversation between arts and science. In the light of this dialogue between arts and science, I am particularly interested by the notions of time and space, life and death, and I look for answers in Biology, Physics and Quantum Physics theories and their respective latest discoveries. In this era of crisis and anxiety, this project questions our perception of the reality based on our limited human senses and knowledge of nature. I used scientific readings as a starting point to establish the basis of the whole project. With this in mind, through my film “La singularité” and through the medium of animated film, I wanted to address the following concepts:

  • Illustrate the non-linearity of destiny;
  • Translate the subjectivity of points of view;
  • Dilute time;
  • Represent paradoxes.

At this stage of the project, using painting and animated film served me in the exploration of possibilities, boundaries and advantages of dynamic vs static work.

Your work focuses on femininity and women and it has a powerful message and meaning for you. How are you feeling about the current climate for women in general?

I believe the revolution that is ongoing at the moment is far from won.  I don’t think the emancipation of women is just a question of having equal rights; it’s a question of having equal power too; but I like to have an optimistic feeling about that for a not-too-far future. The women in my work are independent and self-sufficient; they love to explore and understand the world by themselves.

I know you have some images to share of the process of creating the life size pieces, could you talk us through that process?

The idea being to re-create the characters of my film, I select the best frame for each character, and use it as the reference for the sculpture. I make other drawings of other angles of the figure, to have an idea of the shape in 3D.

I work the clay into slabs of approximately ½ in thick to build the sculpture, starting with the base. The sculpture is empty in the inside but has a clay structure inside to make it more solid. I have to build the piece on a trolley, so I can move it around the studio. I build the piece, section by section, and join the parts as they get just at the right level of dryness. Once the piece is finish, I get it into the kiln with the help of a lift (and 2 professional persons!) After the first firing (bisque), I make some glaze and finish tests, then apply the glazes to the sculpture, and fire it again. I can fire the piece several times until I get the finish I want.

What has been the biggest obstacle for you to overcome this year so far?

Finishing the film before the deadline was quite a stressful part of the project. This animation was my first long-term project (10 months), and I must say that is it difficult for me to follow an original plan that was made months before, in order to keep up with the schedule. Along the way, I had to decide if I rejected new ideas or not. I also think that my initial plan was maybe a bit too ambitious for the time I had, considering other projects that were overlapping with the production. Anyhow, I can say I have learned a lot through this new way of working.

If you could offer some advice to other artists starting out, what would you share with them?

Give a try to your craziest ideas!

Do you have any other plans for 2019 at this stage?

A collaborative exhibition is being planned for spring; I will give more details soon. I was also accepted to participate in an artist residency with Arctic Circle at the North Pole in June 2019, where I will keep developing my ongoing installation project.

When and if time allows, is there anything else you would like to experiment with in future?    

For now, I hope to continue experimenting with painting, sculpture and animated film and trying to link them in new ways.


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