It would be pretty difficult to walk past one of Ilana Pichon's public murals and not feel uplifted by her cheerful color palette and wonderful patterns. By combining digital and analogue techniques, she comes up with gorgeous designs, which she then transfers to walls and other surfaces. I'm so happy to share some of her thoughts on her design process, and what drives her to continue working and experimenting tirelessly in a variety of media.
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Hi Ilana! Tell me about yourself! Where are you from, and where are you based now?
I grew up in Switzerland, and I have lived in Quebec for 15 years. My studio is located in a part of my apartment in Quebec City, but I often work in other workshops or outside for my various projects in Canada.
What first interested you in making art?
The feelings we live that can be transcribed through an X or Y material is what generates my interest in art. I've been surrounded by music, visual arts and architecture since childhood. The colors, geometric shapes, and spatiality are part of a large playground in which I was allowed to play early.
You work both in printmaking and have done quite a bit of public painting projects as well. Did you begin with one and it led to the other?
As far as I can remember, I did land art without knowing it while I waas young; It was simply outdoor games with the available elements of nature. In high school, I studied photography and engraving, and most of the projects I realized made and installed in-situ. I also produced many artist books without knowing the name at the time. I realized that I loved to intertwine the techniques and the places, and that the surrounding space was already registered in my practice! I then studied architecture at university (Bachelors and Masters) and three years later, I followed a short program about the creation of artists' books. At that moment, I found engraving, and I discovered serigraphy! It is a medium that seduced me for its versatility of printing on multiple media and its accessibility (transportable anywhere). Murals came shortly after. The opportunity to intervene in a public space motivated me, and the scale of intervention also. Moreover, for one year I am part of the bank of artists who realize the 1% program of integration of works of art into architecture in Quebec.
In recounting my journey, I see that the two scales have always been there, and that it is difficult to know which was there first. It is looking between what you say and where you are that is at the heart of my practice. My studies in architecture have structured how I read spaces, and how I grasp their dynamics. It also taught me how to read things at various scales, to zoom in / zoom out in a project. I also developed strong conceptual skills in building the creative process.
What is your favorite thing about printmaking?
I can print wherever I want because the screen printing is transported well, and it is also very flexible with regard to materials that can be printed (glass, paper, fabric, wood, walls)! This allows me to make impressions that are very detailed and sharp.
Your favorite thing about painting on walls?
Doing art in public spaces and... being in a lift at a height outside!
When we paint in the street, people are very grateful for the work that is done before their eyes. They become aware of the time it takes and are happy that it embellishes their living space, their neighborhood. It is a workplace where we constantly receive compliments from passers-by without having to ask for anything, unlike the workshop where the public does not see us work.
Otherwise, I am someone who likes to work in a high lift. This space becomes your home for a few weeks -- a bit like a tree house! I love the challenges of scale and design / realization that the mural requires, and I see that my background in architecture is a good asset!
What inspires you? Do you have any particularly influential mentors, teachers, or peers?
There are several things that stimulate my creativity. First of all, I like to observe. To make people discover certain details that escape us by the fact that we do not look or listen to our everyday space, so I propose a different angle of view inspires me. Otherwise, I like textures that differ in matter, architecture, and sounds. Also, colors are like a basic element with which I play constantly. I take the time to build them in silkscreen or a mural and choose them for their complementarity and dynamics. Geometric shapes, their malleability, complementarity or subtraction, planes (vertical, horizontal) and spatiality are also at the heart of my reflection.
Among those who have been there since my childhood, there are Maurits Cornelis Escher, Sol Lewitt, Victor Vasarely, Mark Rothko. Karel Martens and Ruedi Baur appeared later for their graphic approach. My studies in architecture allowed to exercise and find a balance between the Cartesian side and the creative side. I also think that the course of my life, with many travels and shifts, greatly tinted what I do.
Can you tell me a bit about your process? How do you get started on a piece or a series?
My creative process goes through multiple stages of construction that are always connected to a site at the outset. For each project, I try to build a work that conceptually tells the story of the space and what I read there, and what lives there independently of the medium. This involves surveying the site (real and / or documentary research), collecting raw materials, sorting information, manipulating and searching the model, doing part of the work on the computer, printing (digital or screen printing), again manipulating, and then completing construction by hand.
All stages are based on a basic concept. So I create and build each project with certain, concrete markers or tags that I make at the beginning, and this structure then allows me to be creative and free for the work to take shape. I constantly go back and forth between the container and the content during the creation so that everything fits in logically.
I like to transcribe what I live through textures that I build digitally. By observing the environment, these are details that I extract and use to create patterns. Then, each of them is worked relative to the place by its scale, its dynamics, the number, the positions, and the whole, so that it follows the original concept. These textures are then used in the work in quite diverse ways.
What is your workspace like?
It really depends on what project I'm working on! In modes of creation it may look like this:
My workshop at home with plants and beautiful light in the middle; workshops and artists centers; a ladder, a scaffold or a lift; my bike where many ideas walk and build during wrinkles - pedaling on the bike also makes me pedal in the head!; going on long journeys where the landscape interferes in creation, windows like silkscreen; a field, a river; a class full of children with whom to create ...
Regularly for digital portions of my work:
Computer and music, no matter where.
I like it to change over time and these two rhythms intersect continuously throughout the year.
What do you think is the most challenging part about doing what you do?
The most challenging thing for me is to juggle constantly between creation and writing to propose new projects. Maintaining a good rate of submission to project calls, researching those that might match my work, and suggesting new ideas is not always easy when you are immersed at an intense pace of creation. However, in order to have work in the year that follows, it is necessary to submit. Generally, we receive a positive response rate of between 10% and 15% on the whole of what is proposed. You have to arm yourself with a good dose of creativity and do not let go!
Have you overcome any obstacles that you've learned from?
In the early years, it is sometimes difficult and frightening to face moments when there are fewer or no projects (in winter, for example). This rhythm is recurrent with the years and I think that with time one takes confidence in the fact that there will be something later. This confidence in the fact that the loop will re-start will put energy in the right place. I mean to continue to create and propose projects and not lose strength or worry.
What is the most rewarding aspect of pursuing your creative career?
Doing something I love each day I wake up. Work with many different people in each project, and working in collaboration and growing through that.
Do you have any upcoming shows or projects?
I'm about to go into a silkscreen design studio in Winnipeg for a second time. Following the residency I completed in the fall of 2015 [W2608Q] I proposed a project that refers to it. I received a grant from the CALQ (Quebec Art Council) to carry out a Quebec-Manitoba exchange.
In the spring, I have two creative projects in Quebec with two different groups of teenagers and in May I will expose the digital impressions of the project at Emporte-moi Montréal!
During the winter, calls for projects for new murals will also be on the program and I can not wait!
Find more at issuu.com/ilanapichon!
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