Ascension @Les Territoires: Simone Rochon on the conundrum of creating

“We have this idea of what is ‘wild’ and ‘untouched’, une nature vierge. As soon as we depict or represent it, it’s not untouched anymore. I’ve aesthetized it, fabricated and put my influence in it”. Using this basic idea as a springboard, Montreal-based artist Simone Rochon put together Ascension, an exhibit that acknowledges the futility of her artist-self’s desire to re-create nature.

Ascension is Rochon’s debut solo exhibit and features seven stunning paintings and an impressive sculptural piece. Stemming from her fascination with wild, untouched landscapes, mountains became the primary motif in her Visual Arts Masters program at UQAM.

Her re-creations clearly resemble their natural origins, but Rochon’s artistic ‘wink’ comes through with some contemplation. Despite what we imagine to be the plush surroundings of a real-life mountain, her drawings (gouache and ink on paper) look like 3D maquettes that are oddly displaced, stark, and solitary. Without much planning or mark-making in her work, they appear to have spontaneously emerged. The viewer is not sure if the image is liquid, melting, or emerging from somewhere. There are no clues as to where these landscapes could possibly be found; the images seem to float, without context, narration, or an apparent story.

The mountain she built for the exhibit, a large sculptural piece that sits on the floor of Les Territoires, is not discernibly made out of synthetic materials. “It was made out of sticks of polystyrene which I carved by hand to replicate sanded wood”.

For the artist, “[the mountains in the exhibit] are similar to the landscapes of a video-game”, a figment of pure imagination without a relate-able context. Since mountains are generally familiar and idealized landscapes, the abstract depictions in Ascension force the viewer to interact with them and to create the imaginary world that would seem to surround them.

Although using mountains as a theme is a simplistic idea, Rochon understands the complexity (and impossibility) of producing work to depict nature.

In her words, “it’s inherently impossible to paint or build something that was originally natural; once I start trying to do it, I’ve exercised hand and perspective in trying to re-create something. Theoretically, re-creating nature in art doesn’t work”. Rather than denying that nature can never truly be reproduced, Rochon embraces the gap between her work and nature’s uncapturable quality. When aligned with Rochon’s artistic vision, her surrealist depictions of mountains are as true to the model as any “realistic” piece of work. More importantly, her art celebrates the gap between reality and artistic re-creation with stunning, fantasy-like landscapes that feed the imagination.

The artist’s conundrum with depicting nature is at the center of Ascension, but Rochon isn’t adamant that the exhibit’s viewers pick up on it. “I’m not concerned that the audience draws this idea from my work. It’s far more interesting for people to simply lose themselves in the work, in the imaginary world”.

Check out Simone Rochon’s web profile and don’t miss Ascension @ Les Territoires Gallery (372 St. Catherine W. suite 527, metro Place-des-Arts), on until August 27. For visiting hours, visit

Photos by Andrea Wong

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