(De)fence : a response to the works of Fiona Couillard
Written by Audie Murray
Visiting the works of Fiona Couillard reminded me of home; a home that is not mine.
The artist does not explicitly reference the prairies in her work, although they still hold a presence within the gallery. The materials and concepts in Fiona’s exhibition feels like I am driving down a long prairie road, saturated by someone else’s memory. These memories do not feel romanticized, they do not feel cold. When I look out and see the space and openness of these recollections, they feel like a hug. When I look out and see the expansiveness of the prairie landscape, I feel held. I feel this when I witness Fiona’s work, too.
When I look at the gallery filled with her art, I understand the layers of her practice. I recognize the voice that reads out her words, taking shape as prints, sculptures, studio experiments on the floor. These layers & voices are in continuous flux- just like our memories, just like our understandings of our ethos.
a blue line
the domestic space layers
I imagine the artist in her studio, sorting through texts, sorting through familial history, sorting through landscape, sorting through home. I can see Fiona deconstructing fences, and reconstructing patterns. I imagine the artist looking at the past in order to make semblance of the present. Fiona’s use of the domestic is crucial to her practice and discarded, all at once. This duality mirrors her use of the fence as an allegory.
I understand the fence as a domestic intervention on the land. They have a practical use for those who are in favor of dividing and claiming ownership over these spaces. In many ways, fences try to make sense of something that cannot be so easily divided. Maybe that is why Fiona and fences work so well together- they are both trying to make sense of complexities.
When I first encountered the large, 3’x4’, welded steel structures painted orange, I was instantly reminded of the minimalist sculpture movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. In particular I was reminded of the steel painted structures of Donald Judd. The work of Judd “exist outside a priori systems of thought; they exist in a space void of metaphysics and metaphor.”1 Although Fiona is aesthetically in conversation with the history of minimalist sculpture through material and the use of visual language, her work exists as a metaphor. She considers the materials in a poetic way which reflects her journals filled with text. She considers the representation of her material like how a fence can act as a camouflage while simultaneously acting as a reveal. Fiona is aware of her relationality to the (perceives as) macho minimalist sculpture movement. Infact, she uses this association to subvert the inherent gendered aesthetics.
which exist within mediums,
which exists within the prairie landscape,
which exists within the domestic spaces situated on these landscapes,
which exists within our memories- if we choose to see them.