Guy Laramée

Our interview with the artist about sand-blasted books, ethereal paintings and a transcendental point of view

Examining evolution through the dual lens of spirituality and science, Montreal-based book sculptor Guy Laramée creates miniature landscapes from antiquated paperbacks. Drawing upon over three decades of experience as an interdisciplinary artist (including a start as a music composer) and an education in anthropology, Laramée carves out an existentialist parallel between the erosion of geography and the ephemeral nature of the printed word.

Laramée also evokes notes of nostalgia and the passing of time with his paintings of clouds and fog. A self-professed anachronist, Laramée takes inspirational cues from the age of Romanticism and the transcendentalism of Zen, exploring “not only what we think, but that we think.” Laramée’s distinct, conceptual medium and thematic study of change has involved him in such contemplative projects as the “Otherworldly” exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design and an impromptu collaboration with WIRED UK.

We caught up with Laramée during his recent exhibition, “Attacher les roches aux nuages” or “Tying Rocks to Clouds”, at Expression: Centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinte in Quebec, to learn more about his process and philosophy.

Guy-Laramee-2.jpg

What inspired the ideas for your book sculptures and what is the process that is involved in creating them?

The bookwork came in the alignment of three things: a casual discovery, my undertaking of an MA in anthropology and the building of La Grande Bibliothèque du Québec. The undertaking of this grand library fascinated me because at that time (2000) I thought that the myth of the encyclopedia—having all of humanity’s knowledge at the same place—was long dead. I was, myself, going back to school to make sense of 15 years of professional practice and was, once more, confronted with my love/hate relationship with words. Then came this accident, so to speak. I was working in a metal shop, having received a commission for a theater set. In a corner of the shop was a sandblaster cabinet. Suddenly, I had the stupid idea of putting a book in there. And that was it. Within seconds, the whole project unfolded.

Please tell us a bit about your collaboration with Wired UK and creation of the Black Tides project.

Tom Cheshire, one of the associate editors of WIRED, wrote me one day, saying that he loved my work and inquiring about my future projects. Off the top of my head and half jokingly, I told him that I had the idea of doing a piece with a pile of their magazines (that was not true). He picked up on the idea and suddenly, a pile of magazines was being shipped to my studio. I had had a lot of offers for commissions—all involving my work with books—and I refused them all because they all made me so sad. People were trying to use my work to fit their agendas but the collaboration with WIRED truly inspired me because it fit perfectly with a project I had on my bench for a while, and for which I had found no outlet. The Great Black Tides project is the continuation of The Great Wall project. It gives flesh to a short story written in the mode of an archeology of the future.

The first piece that came out of this project is WIRELAND. It is both ironic and beyond irony. It is ironic that a high-tech magazine would include such a low-tech work in their pages—and foremost a type of work that looks so critically at the ideologies of progress. And it is beyond irony even, because the piece is beautiful. It is beautiful for mysterious reasons but I like to think that the way Tom Cheshire trusted me was a big factor in the success of the enterprise. So if there is a message in all this, I would like to think that it is this: never stop relating to people who defend worldviews, which seem to contradict yours. There is a common factor beyond all points of view.

Guy-Laramee-5.jpg

In addition to your sculptures, you also paint. Please tell us a bit about your painting process and what inspires your fog series.

The 19th century painter and emblematic figure of Romanticism, Caspar David Friedrich, said, “The eye and fantasy feel more attracted by nebulous distance than by that which is close and distinct in front of us.” That sums it up all very nicely. What is blurred and foggy attracts your eye because you want to know what is behind that veil. It is a dynamic prop to set you in motion.

Guy-Laramee-6b.jpg

Your work frequently explores themes of the ephemeral, surreal and nostalgic. What draws you to these themes and influences them?

The Great Nostalgia is my main resource. It is not nostalgia about a lost golden age (which never existed). It is the nostalgia, here and now, of the missing half. We live between two contradictory and simultaneous worldviews: the participant and the observer. I work along the thesis that all of humanity’s joy and sorrow come out of this basic schism, something most of the great religions (Buddhism, Sufism, etc.) evoke abundantly.

My work is existential. It may depict landscapes that inspire serenity, but this is the serenity that you arrive at after traversing life crisis. You can paint a flower as a hobby, but you can also paint a flower as you come back from war. The same flower, apparently, but not really the same.

Guy-Laramee-7.jpg

Could you please share your thoughts on the theme of the Guan Yin project and how it manifested in the exhibited pieces?

Originally the project was a commission for a local biennale here in Quebec, an event that celebrates linen. The theme of that biennale was “Touch”. I started with used rags, the ones that are used by mechanics and that are called “wipers”. I started by sowing them together without really knowing what I was doing. I was attracted to the different shades of these rags. They are all of a different grey, due to the numerous exposures to grease and the subsequent washings but meanwhile, my mother died. I was with her when she gave her last breath. Needless to say, that gave the project a totally different color.

So, I decided that this project would help me pass through the mourning of this loss. I decided against all reason—you don’t do that in contemporary art— that I would carve a statue of Guan Yin, the Chinese name for the Bodhisattva of compassion in Buddhist lore. It took me four months. I had never carved a statue in wood. Finally, the statue came out of a syncretic version of the original. It is still faithful to one of the avatars of these icons but there is a bit of the Virgin Mary in there. Then, I built an altar over the statue and put the altar on this 16×16 feet tablecloth made of 500 used rags. The piece was first shown in an historic Catholic church which was almost a statement about the possibility of an inter-faith dialogue—even if that was far from my concern at the time when I put it up there. To me, these rags, with the hands of these women over them, became the metaphor of our human condition. As a Japanese proverb says, “The best words are the ones you did not say.”

Guy-Laramee-3.jpg

“Attacher les roches aux nuages” will run through 12 August 2012 at the Centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinte.

Centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinte

495, Avenue Saint-Simon

Saint-Hyacinthe (Quebec), J2S 5C3

A Google Reader Starred Item

Photography: Earth from the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Don Pettit recently uploaded a gallery of photos to the Johnson Space Center’s Flickr page.

“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, the ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”
– Don Pettit

Earth from the International Space Station, Photography by Don Pettit, via: Retina

A Google Reader Starred Item

Boneshaker Magazine

Bicycle culture with an emphasis on “culture”

by Rich Cunningham

boneshaker-2.jpgboneshaker-1.jpg

Comprised of 64 ad-free pages, Boneshaker Magazine presents itself as the perfectly formed remedy to the anesthesia of a glossy bicycle magazine. Set upon uncoated challenger offset paper Boneshaker has an unrivaled visual and tactile quality that is noticeable even before opening it. Plus, Boneshaker’s collection of articles, stories and anecdotes about people, projects and bicycles makes for a riveting cover-to-cover read.

boneshaker-3.jpgboneshaker-4.jpg

Issue 9 is due for publication and contains a host of exciting features such as Bike Move; a home moving van on two wheels and La Ciclovia; a regular tour weaving through the car-filled streets of Bogota, Columbia.

boneshaker-5.jpg

The latest edition also showcases the weird and wonderful creations of Disraeli Gears and features Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in what the editorial team hopes to be an inspirational issue. James Lucas of Boneshaker states that “Many of the projects have a real ‘go ahead and do-it-yourself’ feel and we hope the magazine inspires you to do the same.”

boneshaker-6.jpg

Four-issue subscriptions to Boneshaker Magazine are available from Fingerprint Distribution for £20.

A Google Reader Starred Item

Ishinomaki Laboratory: Tsunami Recovery through Design

IL-IshinomakiLab-0.jpgKeiji Ashizawa – Ishinomaki Bench (front left); Taiji Fujimori – “Endai” bench (front right)

Located in the Miyagi Prefecture, just 50km from Sendai, the Ishinomaki Laboratory was established in response to the 3/11 earthquake. With the support of Herman Miller Japan, a team of designers led by architect Keiji Ashizawa created a “public space and community center open for local people, to encourage them to restore and reconstruct the area by themselves.”

IL-IshinomakiLab-table1.jpg

To that end, Ishinomaki Laboratory provides not only the plans for the understated furniture designs but also training for local high school students, who receive engineering lessons in exchange for their efforts, including workshops with professional designers as the instructors.

IL-IshinomakiLab-1.jpg

In keeping with their mission, Ishinomaki Laboratory hopes to build a sustainable company in order to provide job opportunities for local residents. Representatives from the Lab were happy to share their story and products at the recent InteriorLifestyle show in Tokyo.

IL-IshinomakiLab-table2.jpgYasutaka Yoshimura’s “Saw Elephant” (center) is a riff on a saw horse; the “Skydeck” rail-mounted table (right) was one of several designs by Torafu Architects in the Feel Good Store section of the show

IL-IshinomakiLab-birdhaus.jpgJin Kuramoto – Bird House made from local materials

IL-IshinomakiLab-stools.jpgL: Koichi Futatsumata’s “246 Stool” is made from six 2&times4s; R: 220 of Keiji Ashizawa’s Ishinomaki stools were constructed with the help of elementary school students.

IL-IshinomakiLab-screws.jpgThe red cedar stools are fabricated with the guidance of Herman Miller craftsmen

More information (in Japanese) is available at ishinomaki-lab.org/.

(more…)


A Google Reader Starred Item

David Rasmussen’s WUD Plates to See Sharp Sales In-Klein

0rasmwud01.jpg

It’s not often that something as mundane as a dish draws design attention, but furniture designer David Rasmussen’s sweet-looking WUD Plates caught my eye.

0rasmwud02.jpg

The Danish-Modern-looking platters, made from solid walnut or maple, began life last year as a custom order from a coffee shop local to Rasmussen; customers began clamoring for them, and soon the Colorado-based designer found that every batch he made “immediately sold out.”

0rasmwud03.jpg

Since then the WUD plates have come to the attention of one Calvin Klein, who liked them so much he’s commissioned a charger and tray for his furniture line. Not too shabby, Rasmussen!

0rasmwud04.jpg

(more…)

A Google Reader Starred Item

Peterbilt & Local Motors “Roll Out” a Truck Cab Design Competition

0rig2comp01.jpg

I’m a Mack

0rig2comp02.jpg

I’m a PB

Optimus Prime was a Mack truck in the cartoons, but in the Transformers movies he switched over to Peterbilt. And if the Peterbilt brand is good enough for the leader of the Autobots, they’re surely worthy of your design attention.

Peterbilt Motors, in conjunction with (Core77 Design Awards Transportation Judge) Local Motors, is holding a competition to redesign their next-generation Peterbilt Icon cab. Entrants are asked to incorporate traditional Peterbilt styling into the new RIG2 (Road Icon Generation 2), to “Provide a design to stir the emotions of the owner while still communicating practicality and functionality.”

0rig2comp03.jpg

The competition’s splash page is pretty helpful, spelling out the terminology of the parts entrants will need to be fluent in, and both Photoshop and CAD models are provided to serve as underlays.

0rig2comp04.jpg

Here’s a quick look at how you’ve got some wiggle room with some of the underpinnings:

(more…)

A Google Reader Starred Item

Student Work – Mara Rodríguez & Beatrice Menis

Designed by Mara Rodríguez & Beatrice Menis | Country: Spain

“The aim of this project was to design a packaging for take away. Nowadays there are infinite types of fast foods which offer take away, that’s why we chose to narrow it down to a special sector of the market. We chose to focus on lactose intolerance, offering take away dairy-free breakfasts! At Müd we offer cupcakes, donuts, cookies and loaf cakes which you can combine with coffee, tea or hot chocolate and everything is without lactose!Feel free to add any type of dairy-free milk that you want such as almond, rice, oat, etc.We offer two different packagings, one for the combination of coffee and cookie/loaf cake and a bigger one of coffee and muffin/donut.Everything comes with two different kind of stickers, both applied on the sides of the packagings, ones with what there’s inside of the packaging and the other ones with emotional sentences about your mood. Finally we wanted to create a brand specialized in dairy-free products but with a modern graphic style which could easily reach to a bigger target.”

A Google Reader Starred Item

Storseisundet Bridge in Norway

171 750x499 Storseisundet Bridge in Norway
Storseisundet Bridge is the longest of the eight bridges that make up the Atlanterhavsveien, the road connection from the mainland Romsdal peninsula to the island of Averøya in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway.
View More

Via Design You Trust – Design Blog and Community http://designyoutrust.com/2012/06/storseisundet-bridge-in-no…

A Google Reader Starred Item

Sofia Design Week 2012: Konstantin Achkov’s Groove and Tenon, Flatpack Plywood Furniture

konstantin_achkov.jpegReporting by Temenouzhka Zaharieva. Images by Hristo Kirov with exception of above image courtesy of Tenon.

Last night was the opening exhibition of Groove and Tenon for Sofia Design Week 2012. This is the first solo exhibition for Konstantin Achkov, a young Bulgarian designer who graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts, Sofia with a Master’s degree in sculpture. The exhibition presents some of his most new projects—a series of plywood furniture joined together using only interlocking shapes and pins—groove and tenon.

SDW-KonstantinAchkov-Stack_Frame.jpgGreen Frame Chair, Stack Chair and Table

The exhibited furniture includes two chairs of the Frame series and a new product series, designed especially for Sofia Design Week 2012, named Stack. It features elements resembling puzzle pieces—when assembled they turn into chairs, tables and stools. You don’t need glue, nails, screws or any other fasteners—all the furniture pieces are designed to be assembled easily, by anyone—alone at home, using only the instructions. There are boards on the wall showing the way a disassembled chair is flatpacked. As the designer explains, these are old but forgotten techniques that allow the user to dismantle, repair and move the furniture, if necessary. Visitors can also see small cardboard models of the furniture.

SDW-KonstantinAchkov-cardboard.jpgCardboard Models

The exhibition also marks the launch of Tenon—a new furniture manufacturer that will produce Achkov’s designs. “Any furniture that we do is a challenge to the status quo. The way we do it is to create products with beautiful design, easy to use and user friendly.”

(more…)

A Google Reader Starred Item

DIY google streetview

the automated system lets users create their own interactive, explorable maps of favourite streets, mountain trails, campuses, building interiors, parks, and anywhere else their feet or car can take them.

read more

A Google Reader Starred Item