Neither here nor there.
The Art Incubator Gallery: January 7 – February 20, 2022
Becoming an immigrant changes our understanding of place. Our hometown, all that was solid until then, becomes a memory. Our new residence, once a legendary place, abruptly becomes a reality. This sudden alteration in the environment causes the loss of references of all kinds, shocking our certainties about ourselves and the world around us. In 2019, Christian Pérès Gibaut was awarded the Edmonton Arts Council’s Cultural Diversity in the Arts grant to examine the notion of identity, memory, and immigration in a new body of work. This exhibition shows a selection of paintings that were part of that project.
Forming our identity is an operation that carries on slowly and steadily for years and decades, but inevitable questions surge when this course is suddenly disrupted. When moving to another country, we leave a part of ourselves behind. Our new family, friends, co-workers, etc., cannot fill the void because certain cultural references are untranslatable and can only be fully grasped when immersed in the particular culture that gave birth to that experience. One is also foreign to the new cultural, social, political conditions. Pérès Gibaut explores this sense of loss and displacement that accompanied him at the beginning of his new life in Canada.
As an Argentinian, the melancholy of tango is part of Pérès Gibaut’s identity, and it imbues the pieces that take part in this exhibition. The paintings show an attempt to connect with the moments and places that are irreparably in the past. Childhood recollections and references to Buenos Aires are a constant but subtle presence. The stained and worn-out pieces of canvas, untidily sown together and stretched, evoke a feeling of abandonment. The paintings resemble artifacts made of second-hand materials that, like fading memories, belong in the past.
The idea of the limits of language is at the center of this work. Words have become meaningless. They have been cropped, erased, relegated to the corners, forgotten. The artist uses this mechanism to speak of the impossibility of accurate translations and all that is left unsaid.
The uncertainty and anxiety that come from this state of being in limbo are apparent. Nevertheless, there is also a freedom that seems to go with them, expressed in Pérès Gibaut’s playful use of materials and techniques. His innovative approach is refreshing and, perhaps, an affirmation of hope in the future.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Christian Pérès Gibaut started his journey in the Arts in 2011, after a long career as a Project Manager. Over the last ten years, he has completed several public art projects in South America and Canada and built a remarkable body of work, primarily in painting and mosaics. He has received several grants by the Edmonton Arts Council to explore ideas such as Identity, Memory, and Immigration; the Limits of Language and Possibilities of Meaning; and the Dematerialisation of Mosaic. He holds a BA in Social Sciences and Humanities and is co-founder of Red Knot Studio, which specializes in mosaic installations and site-specific art. In 2019 he and his partner were awarded the Civic Precinct Public Art Project to connect Churchill Square and Centennial Plaza through child-friendly sculptures. He lives and works in Edmonton, AB.
Top Image: Matador. (detail), acrylic, charcoal, spray paint, thread on canvas 2020
Courtesy of the Artist