Alexis Auréoline
. Emerson. 16mm film (still). 2020.

Alexis Auréoline. Emerson.
16mm film (stills). 2020.

Alexis Auréoline. Bois-Brûlés 01. 2020.
Bois-Brûlés 01 Detail. 2020.

Alexis Auréoline. Bois-Brûlés 01. 02. charcoal on canvas. 
Courtesy of La Maison des Artistes, Winnipeg. 2020.

BIOMASS: So! what's new in life and art?

Alexis Auréoline: I was planning on moving back to Winnipeg from New York for the summer, but then I ended up moving sooner and staying longer. I got access to a pretty big studio in Winnipeg and started making things. I was making in New York but not really documenting or posting them, it’s been a bit backlogged and now there is this chance to share work. I believe overall I am processing and valuing the experience of solitude or isolation, there’s this thing about being an artist; hiding in the studio, making images and what that means.

B: Could you describe the works you’ve included for BIOMASS and what mediums, ideas or relationships exist in them?

AA: I have drawings on canvas and stills from a 16mm film. The charcoal sticks are from a fire made with my friend Thom Groening. The canvas is placed over top of a wood surface and with the charcoal I make several passes, a technique called frottage. I love the quality of charcoal; there's an element of dust and age, they remind me of Arte Povera and minimalism. It feels important to work in this way, burning, drawing and moving. There’s a similarity with the process of darkroom printing. As I am rubbing canvas to copy the grain I am reminded of the photograph revealing itself in the developer tray. Two of the works on canvas were recently shown here in Winnipeg at La Maison des Artistes in a duo show with my childhood friend Jen Funk. The charcoal canvases are titled Bois-Brûlés. A few months ago I did a single take 16mm film around the border town of Emerson Manitoba. I wanted to make a short film about looking/ viewing the USA from Manitoba. As Canadian artists we are in such close relationships with the US. I personally grew up looking at movies and studying art mostly from the US. I’ve been living there for seven years now and it still doesn't quite feel like home; it always feels like an image. I drove down to Emerson on a rainy day and thought about filming the railways, I drove some more around the town and decided to film the gravel road leading to the USA, after that there’s a scene walking in the forest and it clears up into a field. The images of the film are of trees, fields, it's a sort of melancholy landscape film that looks at nature and nations.

Alexis L.-Grisé. Emerson.
16mm film (stills). 2020.

B: Did this move change the way you reflect your own work or has the environment changed your practice?

AA: With this move I was able to scale up in size and practice some of the processes. Yes, moving always makes me reflect on my practice that's why I always want to move. While walking around looking for different wood surfaces I was attracted to old dock bumpers here in the Exchange District which has all these turn of the century buildings with loading bays now used for studios and condos. They reminded me of the ones in Dumbo Brooklyn where I had a studio for a few years. I like to find things that relate to different places. In New York I was already filming the horizon outside and going to places that have a history like the Brooklyn Museum so it's a continuation.

B: So, how would you describe your ideal art practice? What elements would it include on a personal level?

AA: I don’t know if there is an ideal practice for me and that’s ok. I do search for that positive workflow when you're drawing or filming and you're thinking of nothing else in the world. I think ideally I would like to make work for a while then stop and try something different, it can’t become static.... like a long trip, residencies or cooking or something. I do appreciate change, it does make you resilient.

B: Has shifting between mediums become part of your workflow? It seems connected to this valuation of change and resilience.

AA: Constantly yes, and that is helpful to me, to bounce between mediums, photography, video, drawing. I’m thinking about how images are made and finding the time to make them, prioritizing those moments. More recently it’s been really helpful to let go of perfection. If you can create a conversation, make work, and share it, and not think about perfection, you’ll be able to have a conversation just like I am with you. Being able to look back and say I was still making work and sharing it when this [pandemic] happened.

B: Many artists I’ve talked to are often trying to find that balance between making art and burning out. Seems like you're energized now, what has made that possible? 

AA: I do believe what was sort of burning me out is a really intense criticality. Spending less time in galleries with critical art has brought my anxiety down. I went through a really conceptually heavy program but I think if you stick too much to critical theory, it may become... or.. or yeah become a negative inner dialogue. I mean, I dunno if I wanna print that.

B: Oh, I think its good! I don’t know if this is indicative of your practice, but when you're developing a series of work do you have a sense of when it comes to a close? And how have you been sharing new work?

AA: I’ve been thinking a lot about seasons, like “oh I wanna make a short film this summer” (laughter). I made a few series’ that way. I recently showed the Bois-Brûlés works at La Maison des Artistes in a duo show with Jen Funk, those things are kind of it! Work has been leaving the studio through mail and online and those have been amazing relationships, actually proving to be more effective for bigger projects. Getting [art]work in the mail is such a gift too. Worrying less and sharing more, those are the things I’m thinking about when I’m making a body of work right now. I like making images and the process for myself but sharing work is like hosting. It's like having people over for dinner, having conversations, sharing in that way is so satisfying. 

Alexis Auréoline is a Métis artist who lives in Winnipeg; Treaty No. 1 Territory; and Brooklyn NY; Land of the Lenape People. Alexis attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax and the Cooper Union School for the Arts in New York. His works are centered around the process and making of images in relation to place and time.