Marie Côté : Contours, Detours and Turning Points

© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017), Jeux de bols et de voix, 2013 (détail), Installation sonore. Photo Guy L'Heureux

This exhibition highlights Marie  Coté’s interest in the material, space and sound that link ceramics to a prime experience of Earth.

For over thirty years, Marie Côté has worked in ceramics, especially pottery. She has always remained faithful to this mode of expression of which the oldest vestiges go back to prehistory. The originality of her approach lies in her belief that pottery remains more complex than it seems at first glance, even in its simplest form.

This exhibition is articulated around a set of works realized over almost twenty years. It puts forward the composition processes related to the decor of ceramics and the interest of the artist for the bowl, the basic figure of pottery. Like the principles of symmetry at work in ornamentation, her pieces of dishes are challenged by the solids and voids that they define in reciprocal relations of container and content. These concerns anchor Marie Côté’s practice in an exploration of pottery’s receptacle qualities and predispose her to finding an original material to fill her bowls. Thus, in collaborations with musicians, her vases are transformed into percussion instruments or sound boxes, amplifying the voices of Inuit throat singers, or hiding a small speaker replaying prerecorded sounds carefully mixed.

In other installations, the artist uses motifs inspired by weather maps or atmospheric landscapes. These references anchor the artist’s approach in a direct experience of the Earth, associated with the territory and recognizing its primacy as the ultimate container of life.

D’après Morandi (After Morandi), 1996

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© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017), D’après Morandi et Le Renversement III (Photo : Steve Leroux)

Marie Côté draws here from paintings by Giorgio Morandi, an Italian painter of the early twentieth century, whose still lifes feature everyday objects, pots, bottles and bowls. These shapes of turned wood look like ceramic containers. The brilliance of the material evokes the brilliance of enamelled porcelain * and the shades of white give an illusion of depth. Through this formal astuce, Marie Côté reveals the visual components of a container, transforming its capacity into a singular sensory experience.

Tapis (Carpet), 1996

Here stylized tile of porcelain refers to the geometry of Islamic ornamentation at the foundation of the opulence of Middle Eastern architecture. Often interpreted as a formula, repetition of motifs, important in the decoration of bowls or plates, is perceived as superficial and meaningless. Marie Côté puts forward the principle of composition by which motifs are arranged as the very purpose of this work. She plays with received ideas about the decoration and gives it a tangible presence and eloquence.

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© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017), Tapis, 1996 (Photo : Guy L’Heureux)

Untitled, 1996

These six vases emphasize the formal vocabulary specific to pottery: the silhouette of the container, the points of inflection and the thickness of the walls, as well as the cutout for clearing a foot. The presentation head-to-tail allows us to appreciate the interior of the vases, along with the profile and the base serving as a seat. Added to this is the effect of the glaze whose intensity and brilliance create an ambiguity as to the actual depth of the pots. This work by Marie Côté seeks to show us pottery as a complex sensory experience, in relation to the visible and the space in a specific way, as well as its richness often obscured by its functionality as a container.

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© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017), Sans titre, 1996 (Photo : Guy L’Heureux)

Les attrape-vent (The wind catchers), 2007-2008

Behind five mouthpieces of porcelain, Marie Côté presents a huge embossed paper obtained by the reaction of the paper during the drying of a fluid clay spread over all its surface. Indeed, during dehydration, the contraction of the earth creates a network of folds resembling the contour lines of a topographic map. Inside the cones, the artist takes similar motifs inspired by weather maps, thus marking the effervescence of the wind in solid.

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© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017) Les attrape-vents, 2007-2008. (Photo : Guy L’Heureux)

Add to this the whiteness of the material evoking the smoothness of the ice cream on a cake, the marks left by the plow’s share. These allusions to human activities complete the reference to the territory put forward by the use of cartography. Resulting from a sedimentation of fine particles accumulating for posterity, the material also carries with it the geological history of the Earth. The effervescence at the heart of the megaphone thus indirectly illustrates the climatic disturbances that threaten today Earth ecology. Marie Côté continues to emphasize the polysemic richness of clay, her favorite material.

Jeux de bols et de voix (Of Bowls and Voices), 2013 and La ligne d’horizon, (The Skyline), 2011

At first glance, pottery is not associated with the musical universe, although the experts of Chinese porcelain evaluate its qualities, notably by the resonance of the material.

During a concert, Marie Côté has the idea of sounding the throat games of Inuit singers in bowls. In performance, the proximity of their mouths indeed enhance the echo of their voices. In the summer of 2011, a residency in Inukjuak allowed her to experiment and expand her collaborations with Inuit people from the far North, among the only not to use pottery.

On site, she also recorded the lapping of the river and the Hudson Bay, the singing of birds, the sounds of life in the village, collecting everyday bits of this unique Nordic environment. She has thus documented a soundscape participating in the experience of the place and whose singers are inspired by their throat games. Intuitively, she has thus fed on the same resources as the latter. Thanks to Olivier Girouard’s extensive editing work, we get to hear through small speakers concealed in the colorful porcelain bowls the Inuit throat games, combined with the sounds of everyday life and the environment of northern Quebec. In echo, the whirling of the blue and white material of the bowls evokes the sky, the water, the snow and the ice of the North.

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© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017), Jeux de bols et de voix, 2013 (Photo : Guy L’Heureux)
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© Marie Côté / SODRAC (2017), La ligne d’horizon, 2011 (Photo Guy L’Heureux)

This installation of 4 elements was realized in collaboration with Olivier Girouard, sound designer, including the voices of Elisabeth Nalukturuk, Nellie Nappatuk, Sarah Naqtai, Phoebe Atagotaaluk-Aculiak, Lysa Kasudluak Iqaluk, Margaret Mina, Annesie Nowkawalk and Ida Oweetaluktuk. It is accompanied here by a drawing made from clay of Inukjuak reproducing the infinite line of the horizon in this bare northern landscape.

The Reversal II and The Reversal III, 2016

Drawings made directly on the wall at the Maison des Arts de laval and the Regional Museum of Rimouski with clay from Les Escoumins and ocher Colombier, two municipalities of the Haute-Côte-Nord.

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Marie Côté, Reversal III, 2016 Musée régional de Rimouski (Photo : Steve Leroux)

From the introductory text and the exhibition cartels presented at the Maison des Arts in Laval and the Musée régional de Rimouski.

The catalog accompanying the exhibition includes an essay by Marie Perrault, a text by Jean-Émile Verdier and a poem by Stéphane D’Amour, in French and in English. This book was printed in 350 copies, including 50 issues incorporating a portion of a 9-meter long Marie Côté drawing entitled Horizon, made in ocher on crumpled paper by the drying of the raw clay.

Marie Coté