“I have this vital need to move, to create, to contribute to the collective discourse,” says Caroline Monnet. From one creation to another, in no apparent order and without a precise target, the multidisciplinary artist of Algonquin origin has assembled a portfolio as rich as it is diversified, to which is now added a collection of furniture.
At 38, Caroline Monnet is acutely aware that the wheel is turning and time is running out. The piercing gaze, the inexhaustible speech, she entrusts us with difficulty in holding in place. “It’s the others who give me this image of being everywhere at once. Me, my head is bubbling with ideas and desires and I always have the impression that I could do more. “We do not have enough of a life to do everything, she regrets. And living halfway was never an option.
“I grew up in the suburbs of Ottawa, in Aylmer, in a family that was not artistic. My parents did work-traffic-sleep. Very young, I knew that it was not for me who had a creative spirit and a fertile imagination. I wanted to travel, live extraordinary experiences, have an exciting job. Later, I met artists and I said to myself: this is what I want to do. »
She left the house as soon as the opportunity presented itself, but without ever abandoning this dual French and Anishinaabe heritage that fuels her creation.
“I am one of many indigenous voices, it is important to clarify, but I am lucky to be offered a certain platform. Through my work, I can help break down stereotypes, change perceptions and mentalities. I want to use it constructively. »
Claiming, she says, is never the starting point of her creations. It is often in reverse that the work reveals its symbolic charge. “There is this little girl’s desire to change the world at large, but I never know how a work will evolve and what impact it will have on the public. I tell what is important to me and I tell myself that if it affects me, it will surely affect others. »
Constraints and control extinguish it; the field of possibilities turns her on, she says. “I like to be commissioned a work because in this case, I have an anchor. I often start with a square, but then it can turn into a fresco. In her career, the beginning has been documentary and experimental video, a discipline that quickly spread to sculpture and other artistic spheres. “I trust life. One project leads to another and many things interest me. »
In recent times, life has led her to present a collection of furniture: a sequel that naturally fits on her roadmap. “I like beautiful things and I was already using a lot of design software to create. The architecture, construction and design are not so far from what I have done so far. All of this makes sense in my desire to generate beauty. »
Every weekend, and as soon as she has the opportunity, the artist leaves her Montreal pied-à-terre to return to her haven in the forest in the Outaouais. His house is punctuated with wood, cement, metal and objects from small local businesses. The style is minimalist. “To feel good and to feel free to create, I need big windows, that it’s clean and that it doesn’t hang around too much. »
Her vision of design is not indigenous, she says, refusing labels. The same reflection applies to all his creations. “Indigenous design is international design, but the narrative behind a project is necessarily influenced by culture, philosophy, socio-political and spiritual baggage. As an artist, I am given a direction. I do my research and ask myself: does it make sense, is it authentic, does it come from a good place? I then let the research manifest itself in the forms. »
During the Ice Age, a giant beaver slapped its tail against the Earth’s surface and rippled across the land to shape the hills of the Outaouais. This legend, taken from the Anishinabe cultural repertoire, was the starting point for the creation of two pieces by Caroline Monnet for Humble Nature — a chair and a table with flowing lines — that we imagine blending into a natural environment.
The Amik collection is entirely handmade in Quebec with local resources. “It was a real challenge to make these pieces because of their uneven curves, but that’s the essence of these creations and we wanted to be faithful to the artist’s vision”, says Valérie Guilmette, director General Manager of furniture manufacturer Humble Nature (Groupe Saint-Damase).
Her furniture, Caroline Monnet imagines it enveloping, unifying. Two or more people can easily drop into it. “I wanted these pieces to be one with the body and the territory; whether they are playful, multigenerational, community-based. Children can play around and under it, the older ones can sit on it. I thought of my dad who wouldn’t be able to stretch out in the chair, but could easily use the table as a bench. »
Humble Nature has given carte blanche to the artist to choose an organization to which 5% of the profits generated by the sale will be donated. Caroline Monnet selected Mikana, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and raise awareness of the realities and perspectives of the Indigenous population.
The Amik collection is available on order.
Caroline Monnet is a multidisciplinary artist. Before embarking on her career in the visual arts, she studied sociology and communication at the universities of Ottawa and Grenada. She is an autodidact in the arts.
She has had solo exhibitions in France, New York, Montreal and Frankfurt. Permanent collections host his creations in North America and at UNESCO (Paris).
She has won the Pierre-Ayot, Sobey, and REVEAL Indigenous Arts Awards, as well as the Merata Mita Bursary from the Sundance Festival.