Valérie Blass

2017

Valérie Blass Born 1967 in Montreal, QC… lives and works in Montreal, QC

How is it that sculpture, the most physical of all art forms, is the one that seems most adept at speaking to an increasingly complex and intangible world? The work of Valérie Blass responds most clearly to this question.

Virtual reality, electronic media, performance—these art forms, and many others, respond to our changing times, even anticipate them, and attest to the profound transformations occurring in the languages of art. And yet, few phenomena have influenced the art world in the last decade as much as the innovative strength of sculpture. A “traditional” sculpture, one that we can walk around, made of material objects with weight, texture, and density, found or made according to established methods, whether cast or otherwise assembled, held together by tension and equilibrium, leaves no doubt in the eyes of the viewer. How is it that sculpture, the most physical of all art forms, is the one that seems most adept at speaking to an increasingly complex and intangible world?

The work of Valérie Blass responds most clearly to this question. For ten years now, Blass has been exploring the most elemental of sculptural motifs, the human figure, while simultaneously divesting it of all sense of coherence it may have taken on or been subject to—whether humanistic, religious, or realistic—over the course of many centuries. In her work, the representation of the human figure—or a figure that resembles a human, whether it be animal, monster or both, or a hybrid of all three, or that which remains of a human figure in the form of a limb, a silhouette, a head—is transformed in unusual or unexpected ways. It is as if her work exists on its own, outside of any established program, framework of cultural reference, or system of meaning.

In a word, the work of Valérie Blass makes no sense—which makes it all the more relevant and essential. Because it is full of meaning, both symbolically and physically, its opacity making it ideally suited to semantic projection. This artist’s insatiable appetite for material, texture, form, colour, and arrangement is equalled only by her seemingly limitless sense of the relationship between tension and balance that is the driving force of sculptural dynamics. The result is that each work asserts itself in its environment and in our thoughts with a unique, physical, tangible presence that is absolutely vital.

In his commentary on the work of Kant, Heidegger proposes the idea of the ‘dignity of the object’ to describe this resistance of the object—and the artistic object in particular—to meaning. After all has been said about an object, after all has been thought and all has been seen, there remains that which is irreducible to meaning, and that which no reasoning, no concept, no words can capture. At its best, as in the work of Valérie Blass, sculpture gives an object its dignity, a valid point of reference in these changing times.

Stéphane Aquin

translated by Laurel Saint-Pierre

JURY MEMBERS

Stéphane Aquin
Stephan Jost
Liz Magor
Philip Monk
Jay Smith

High-up, dignitary, panjandrum, high muckamuck

High-up, dignitary, panjandrum, high muckamuck, 2015
Photo: SITE Photography

All images courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver