Nicole De Brabandere

Nicole De Brabandere has an Honors degree in Cultural Studies from York University (Toronto), a diploma in Ceramics from Sheridan College, and an MFA from the Ohio State University. In her working process, De Brabandere transforms and negotiates the symbolic and material residues of the heritage of Western decorative arts. De Brabandere’s aim is to create psychologically and formally engaging objects by salvaging from this outmoded material culture. De Brabandere has recently had a solo exhibition at Alison Smith Gallery in Toronto and her work has been exhibited at the Toronto International Art Fair (2010), and Art Chicago (2010).

Artist Statement

In my work, I make specific reference to domestic conventions of display and the decorative arts, though position this historical content within material contexts that propose a poetics of the possible against the impossible. In my working process, materials are put together so that they can exist and support one another in inverse combinations. Forms take on a hybrid character in order to negotiate invisible forces of time, weight, gravity and compression. The body, motion, and decoration collapse into one another and achieve an immobile tension through the gravitational density of the miniature and the expository place of display. My work entails active creative involvement at every stage in the process of making, and is simultaneously a site for analytical hypothesizing about how objects exist in space and consciousness, as well as aesthetic and intuitive problem solving. I use decoration as a tactile language to explore formal and material possibilities within conventional constraints. My personal history and experience informs my initial motivations. However, the lyrical quality of the work and the suggestion of function and rhythmic action within it, invite the viewer to discover their own willingness to participate in these artistic material expressions. During my upbringing on a dairy farm, the productive labor and visceral reality of the farm existed in dramatic contrast to the domestic experience. The Victorian farmhouse in which my family lived was like an island of civilization in which the menial experience of the everyday was tamed and romanticized through the care and display of extensive collections of miniature tractors, pastoral scenes of farm life, and a host of other collector and decorative objects. These collections required the additional, non-productive labor of dusting. The time that I spent dusting the collections on display transformed the individual character of each object into a marker that found meaning through its relationship to other objects, and its opposition to the outside reality of the farm. The timelessness and iconic character of each individual object broke down through the logic of the system and labor of dusting. This experience planted the seed for my interest in the possibilities within object relationships to re-imagine how objects can embody experience, memory and process. The categories of memory and experience often refer to an intangible, unbounded realm. Having lived through an experience does not always help to determine where it begins and ends, and memory is unbidden and involuntary as often as it is deliberately triggered. Objects and materials evoke memories, but like intangible memories, the meanings they evoke are slippery. In my work, I strive to achieve poetic tension by revisiting what are often seen to be outmoded decorative objects of everyday experience through the interpretive lens of my personal memories and working process.