Jodoin-Eng’s work engages the spatial and sensory properties of light using mirrors to create illusions of space. Visually unfolding abstract concepts of expanding space, she translates compositions through orthographic drawings, paper, and digital models into glowing sci-fi devices made from plastic, wood, metal and electrical components. Constructing optical instruments that project the depths of the mind into the vastness of infinite space, Jodoin-Eng emphasizes the interplay between physical and psychological space by creating illusions of impossible dimensions and perspectives.
Q: I love the surreal sense and disregard for confinement in your work – can you tell me what illusion and the surreal mean to you?
A: Illusion is the differences between what is real in the physical world versus what is real in your mind or mind’s eye; I place equal value on both. Surreal references the unconscious mind, the dream world that exists in our minds as a stream flowing under the constructs of the conscious mind. I imagine that if your mind were a city, the surreal or unconscious would be the hidden systems, air vents, sewers, pipes, and electrical currents, unseen but necessary and constant.
Q: I notice a lot of your work has unique symbols, can you tell me more about this?
A: The symbols in my work reference many things – everyday objects, thoughts, feelings, movements, memories. I think of each symbol as a little thought-bubble, a fragment of a whole visual language. All these thought-bubbles float around in psychological space and relate or connect with each other to make up an individual’s mind. A lot of the symbols are quite literal in regard to their forms.
Q: Although mirror and light-play are old knowledge, you have mixed them with electric wiring and a modern aesthetic. What does this blend of old and new, or ancient and modern, mean to you?
A: I have always had an interest in retrofuturism, and science fiction. It’s amusing to me seeing what people imagined the future (or present day at the moment) to be: all of these immensely imaginative unfulfilled predictions of a possible future/present. The sci-fi aesthetic has definitely influenced my work, especially inspiration drawn from movies such as The Fifth Element, Blade Runner, Alien, Moon. I source the NASA website for 3D models of the technology they use. You can download detailed digital models of anything from a specific space shuttle to a satellite to a wrench. I also draw a lot of inspiration from architecture, this is where the “ancient” forms come through.
Q: From my understanding, “athenaeum” can refer to a library, or place of knowledge, but can also refer to a group of people wishing to improve their knowledge or better themselves. Why did you title the exhibition this and how does it relate to the works on display, and your practice?
A: Athenaeum refers to a library. I thought this was a fitting title for the show as it refers to seemingly infinite psychological property (books filled with ideas, thoughts, information, memories, etc.) contained within an architectural space. I thought this paralleled my intentions accurately by referencing both physical space and psychological space.
Q: Your artist statement emphasizes the idea of never ending space, or the infinite expansion of space – why do you think spaciousness is important? Why do you feel it is an important experience for humans to have?
A: I am compelled to explore the concept of the infinite, I know what it is but is it something I can possibly imagine and know? Making these works is a way of trying to wrap my head around abstract concepts and bring them into a context I can relate to. The works in the show have to do with different contexts of space and their relations, shifting between physical and psychological space. To examine structures of constructed space I looked at architecture that I was drawn to: greenhouses, pyramids, fortresses, staircases, skyscrapers. I also look to astrology and astronomy to try to further understand the infinite and what that means in relation to my body. The relation of our bodies to space is the only reference we have to understand space.
Q: Can you speak a bit about your process, and how the artworks are created?
A: The process begins in the real world. As I am going about my daily life I take notes in my notebook on anything that inspires me, and later research and discuss with friends. When I find a particular structure or form I am interested in I try to theorize what would happen with the reflections/image of the form. I like to let the idea simmer for a couple weeks before planning anything, then if I decide an idea is worth pursuing I start sketching the form and components. Then I go into a drafting stage when I plan out all the pieces and how to make them in a practical way, this is usually a couple weeks. I make little models out of paper and plastic as well as digital 3d models to work this out. Then things get really technical as I have to figure out all the math to make these pieces possible. Then I have to make all the tiny pieces, I use a table saw, hand tools and laser cutting to do this. Then comes assembly, wiring, and depending on the piece I have to think about how it will be installed.
Q: Where or what do you find are consistent sources of inspiration for your art?
A: I draw inspiration constantly from the natural world: I constantly watch nature documentaries, go to museums, travel and spend time outdoors. I am inspired by my friends, their ideas and work, other artists, I go to art galleries weekly, the poetry of everyday life and all my daily encounters.
Q: How do you see your practice evolving in future?
A: I am obsessed with machines and materials, I would like to explore new materials, such as neon, clay, fur, stone, and bring a more organic feel to the work. The next body of work I will be working on will have colour! I have always viewed these works as little architectural models, perhaps one day I will be able to make a large scale installation you can actually walk inside.
Q: Who are some of your favorite artists?
A: Samara Golden, Olafur Eliasson, David Hoffos, Nicholas Baier, Dan Flavin, James Turell, Yayoi Kusama, Otto Piene, Jenny Holzer, John Scott, Stephanie Hier, Darby Milbrath, Robert O’Halloran.
Q: What is your favorite color?
Jodoin-Eng’s first solo exhibition ‘Athenaeum’ opens at Project Gallery (1109 Queen St E) on Friday Jan 15th and will be on display Wed-Sun 12-5pm until Jan 31st.