Guillaume Desrosiers Lépine at Centre des arts et de la culture de Dieppe

By Jon Claytor

Upon arriving at the Centre des arts et de la culture de Dieppe, standard COVID-19 precautions required that I sanitize my hands and sign a registry to allow contact tracing. Next, I slid open the large glass door to the gallery, removed my shoes as instructed, and stepped into a multi-coloured, floor-to-ceiling, collage-like installation. The precautions and protocols became a part of the art experience as I felt I was inside a lab or futuristic medical research facility that required careful sanitization before entering so as not to contaminate the instruments, experiments, and tests.

Guillaume Desrosiers Lépine, Nerikomi: Comment réfléchir à l’intérieur de la matière, 2020, installation view

One wall was glass, but the floor, along with the other three walls, was covered with colourful digital printouts to create a backdrop of visual static. On top of these saturated and chaotic patterns were individual digital prints, pen drawings of repeated dense circles, and mixed media works. Their edges blended and disappeared into the technicolour pulse of the floor and ceiling. Strangely, white wall panels with single artworks centred on them (complete with title cards indicating dimensions) were placed on the floor – which placed the traditional walls of the gallery below our feet. The intense colours of advertising and an almost clinical repetition of patterns echoed from one piece to the next. At moments, something was recognizable – a technique or a fragment of a noticeable form or art movement. It was as if the Western narrative of painting had been atomized and recreated with as best an approximation as possible, as if relics of the past were pasted together in the distant future, as if time travel could be a medium. There were messages in the static, but what did they mean?

Guillaume Desrosiers Lépine offers us the hint to understanding his exhibition in the title: Nerikomi: Comment réfléchir à l’intérieur de la matière. He uses a Japanese word to let us know we are looking at a cross-section of things. Nerikomi is a decorative ceramic process in which colored clay is pressed together and then sliced through to reveal a pattern. Lépine has compressed the history of painting and sliced through a cross-section to reveal something new and futuristic, yet made with the atoms of the past. With his title, the artist is asking us to question, investigate, and explore art from the inside out.

As colours and images hummed and buzzed around me, I noticed the gallery radio was tuned to a local station. French pop music played, news of the quarantine was read, and ads ran for Tourisme Nouveau-Brunswick. These audio elements placed work that seemed to travel through time and artistic styles directly into our already surreal present. No matter how much Lépine has tried to blur time and alter art history, there really is no escaping the present moment.

Guillaume Desrosiers Lépine: Nerikomi: Comment réfléchir à l’intérieur de la matière continues until August 28.
Centre des arts et de la culture de Dieppe:
The gallery is accessible.

Jon Claytor is an artist living and working in Sackville, New Brunswick. He is the co-founder of Sappyfest and Thunder & Lightning Ideas Ltd.