Frame 61

Elise Guillaume

Frame 61
Elise Guillaume

“As a feminist, I believe feminism is about equality, not only between men and women but between all beings. Through my art, I investigate and explore the similarities and links in between these different entities.”

Interview by writer Brooke Hailey Hoffert


How does your status as a young woman influence your art?

When I document industries, I notice and feel similarities between the treatment of Nature and women. One day I was in a fish market and heard one of the fishmongers telling his colleague the fish wasn’t beautiful enough and had too many flaws because its scales weren’t taken off properly. That resonated with me as it felt like society’s ideals of beauty or ‘perfection’ might have many times operated in a similar manner. As a feminist, I believe feminism is about equality, not only between men and women but between all beings. Through my art, I investigate and explore the similarities and links in between these different entities.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?

I am Belgian, born and raised in Brussels. I moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins and then Goldsmiths University where I got a BAFA. I then travelled for a few months, mainly in South America. During that time I did a residency in the Atacama desert with La Wayaka Current.

It was important for me to be in remote environments after being in the city for so long. I’ve recently moved back to Brussels.

Installation “4.4” Collaboration Elise Guillaume & Joachim Froment

Connecting Water 2018

What inspired you to explore the current state of the environment through art?

Artists I find inspiring are those that shift my way of thinking and bring about awareness towards a subject matter. Experiencing such kinds of works leave me with strong emotions which I believe is pretty powerful. I think art can be an incredible language to create empathy. I find performance art particularly inspiring in its ability to produce empathy through the use of ones body as a point of relativeness between viewer and performer. When I see performers who push their bodies, it’s impossible for me to be apathetic, specifically when it comes to durational performances, where the physical body is challenged. Through my work, I explore ways of creating a point of relativeness between the viewer and subject. I use the body as a meeting point between viewer and Nature and aim to create something which is relatable instead of unreachable. I’m interested in working with all senses of the body with a strong emphasis on textures so that the subject may be felt rather than illustrated. I see my work as a contribution to, hopefully, creating a form of empathy, and raise awareness about this incredible Earth that we live on.

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?

I’m an early riser. I love the morning, it’s when I’m most productive and focused. My routine consists of a short meditation before starting my day, then breakfast and coffee in front of my computer. I’ll often re-watch the video I’m working on, which many times helps me to look at it from a new perspective. Later, I try to figure out the things that need more work after having had that time of reflection. The afternoon is more for admin or other bits of work. I guess my studio isn’t that interesting from the outside, it’s just a regular desk with a larger screen I connect my laptop to for editing and a few books. I like to take note of editing timings on paper, so there’s always loose paper hanging around on the desk with numbers on it... Occasionally there are some small copies of photography works which I often lay on the floor, especially when I’m working towards an exhibition, this helps me figure out curation ideas using a more tactile approach. I also have two plants but I would like to have more, I’d love my studio to be like a greenhouse.

Silent Grounds 2019

6.14 2016 (left) Roots 2019 (Right) Testbed1 2019

6.14 2016 (left) Roots 2019 (Right) Testbed1 2019

Sterile Land 2019 (left) A Subtle Moment of Pause 2019 (Right) Testbed1 2019

Sterile Land 2019 (left) A Subtle Moment of Pause 2019 (Right) Testbed1 2019

In what ways is femininity channelled through your art?

Through shapes, textures and movement I explore the relationship and similarities between Nature and the female body. The beauty in its irregularities and details but also the sublimity that I find in each of these different beings. I think it is all a matter of perception, through my work I play with this idea, specifically with video and photography, by sometimes making small things big and the other way around. At the moment I’m interested in having a female character in videos, she’s always seen from the back, her face is never visible. I’m more interested in creating focus on her body, her gestures, her form rather than a particular person/ identity. This character often undertakes everyday tasks- cleaning dishes, cooking, bathing...etc. I’m interested in exploring the extraordinary in the ordinary.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

I recently saw the “For the First Baby Born in Space” by artist duo Webb-Ellis at the Jerwood Arts. This two-screen video follows a group of teenagers living in Whitby, on the outskirts of the UK. This gives insights about the lives of these teenagers and the environment they live in. I think there was quite an honest approach to this work, I thought of it as a very interesting form of reflection of what is to ‘become’, as well as a response towards anxieties in relation to the future. I felt struck by the work’s relevant themes and sensitivity towards them, as well as by its aesthetics and editing choices.

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

Yes, I’m having my first solo exhibition in Brussels in October at the Artichaut Studio near Sablon, so I’m particularly excited to be exhibiting in my home city for the first time. Additionally, I think I’m currently quite excited for opportunities and projects which have recently unfolded. Just a few weeks ago I had my first solo show in London “The Driest Place on Earth” at Testbed1 near London Bridge and I’m please to say this went incredibly well. I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve had, particularly from my curator- Hattie Godfrey. I’m also quite excited about my video- “Connecting Water” having this been recently selected for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2019, and on view at the York Art Gallery until July.

Publish date: 13/06/2019
All images courtsey of the artist