Renée Gouin: femininity and modernity.

Hi Renée! You're a monotype artist based in Vancouver. Please, tell us a bit about yourself.

I love living in Vancouver because there is such a wonderful balance between the city and nature. I value my close connection with the landscape here; it provides clarity and inspiration.

I have studied visual art, design and literature at universities in BC, New York and Switzerland. These provided a formal foundation and historical context that informs my own creative process and expression. For a long time I focused on painting and drawing while developing a visual language to articulate my own point of view. I started to experiment with monotypes eight years ago. I now feel very resolved with this method of image making.


in your artist statement you talk about your interest for the "process of reduction". Where did this come from? 

I see the process of reduction being less about abstraction and more about creating clarity and harmony between the essential formal elements: shape, colour, and composition. The negative space is really important in my images. It accentuates the subjects within the space and their relationship with one another. By pairing down the compositional elements, the aesthetic experience is more immediate and direct. 


Would you consider your work minimalist?

I think of minimalism as an art of reduction and simplicity. I’m continually asking myself what is essential in order to convey my experience of beauty. I think my work has elements of a minimalist approach but whereas minimalist art traditionally avoids emotional content, my work strives to express emotion through subtle narratives, delicacy and whimsy. 


your work shows a constant fluidity between feminine shapes and modern accents. Your subject tend to be women and their clothes. Are you inspired by a particular sense of style and fashion?

I enjoy exploring the relationship between femininity and modernity in my work. Combining a skilled yet fluid approach, I focus on the female form as my central subject. The face of my female forms is left unmarked to emphasize their dynamic gestures, how they engage with one another and with the clothing. I think a women’s sense of style reveals a lot about herself and I’m interested in portraying the confidence I think it takes to express that. 

wood block printing is an ancient technique that not many others are using nowadays. why do you feel so close to this technique and were did your practice come from?

My artwork is inspired by the graphic design and colour palettes of Japanese woodblock prints, but I don’t use a woodblock printmaking technique.

I create monotypes, another form of printmaking, by rolling paint onto a glass plate. The image on the plate is transferred onto paper with a bamboo barren, then pulled, to reveal the print. Unlike many other printmaking techniques that are about repetition and producing multiples I don’t make duplicates, I only produce an image once. Its a medium that gives me the ability to combine a painterly approach with a level of precision that achieves the modern graphic feeling that I want.

The method creates nuances at the edges of the shapes and within them that I think add to their beauty. 

it is also interesting how your work is displayed on social media, even though it’s representative of a very traditional type of art. there's a curious link between today's creative industry and the world of instagram: the oldest art techniques are now displayed on phone screens everyday. would you consider yourself a social media artist and where do you see your instagram account is going to take you to?

Instagram has been a remarkable tool that has given my artwork a lot of exposure, but I’ve never created work specifically for Instagram. I started using it as a way to share my work informally and journal it’s evolution. Over time the collage of the grid has become a compelling visual collection in of itself that helps me continually evaluate my work as a whole. It’s humbling and lovely that thousands of people have taken a moment to appreciate my work, but I’m not interested in using it in a commercial way. I only sell my monotypes at shows, to interior designers and for commissioned projects. I basically intend to keep using Instagram in the same way, to share what I love doing with an audience that appreciates my work as it evolves.


You recently showed your work at Shop One Of A Few. How did the collaboration happen and was it the first time showing your work in "IRL"? How did it feel?

I think the context of a physical space has to really align with the work being exhibited. I’m very particular about potential spaces to show my work; the atmosphere is vital since it will affect how people connect with it.

I’ve been friends with the owner of One of A Few, Michelle Rizzardo for a long time and we share a similar sense of femininity and beauty. I love the designers she carries in the store, very innovative, and independent women. We did our first show two years ago and then the second one this summer. It worked really well since we share a similar audience and it’s a beautiful space which is really important to me. Showing in an intimate space felt like a more appropriate fit than some traditional gallery spaces. With that said, I’m working on a new body of work with the intention to show in a gallery context, one that aligns with my sensibilities.

You can find Renée’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram @_ren_gouin