002. Adeline de Monseignat

Adeline de Monseignat, The Eclair Project, 2013.

To celebrate its launch, Traction interviewed five artists featured in 2013′s ‘The Future Can Wait’, London’s annual curated exhibition to coincide with Frieze Week. Here, we speak with Adeline de Monseignat. 


Your three-dimensional work spans sculpture and installation, but the relationship between the two mediums is extremely fluid. Where do you consider the dividing line to lie?

This is a good question because the answer isn’t obvious.  I just came back from a road trip across West America where we visited the most ambitious Land Art works of the 70s.  This discussion came up while spending the night in a log cabin right by Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field, which was referred to, in the information pack provided by the Dia Foundation Office, as a sculpture and, only pages later, as an installation.  An installation is by definition sculptural because of its three-dimensionality.  However, what I think defines  a sculpture is that, unlike an installation, it isn’t determined by the space it is in. As far as I’m concerned, an installation cannot be separated from its chosen environment.  They go hand in hand.  The space – scale, size, location, setting – informs the piece as much as the materials.  It goes without saying that all of the above influences the meaning of a sculpture too but the latter is independent enough to move from space to space.  If a sculptural piece is only complete within a fixed location, then it becomes installation-based.

Several of your recent works have stemmed from the exploration of a text. How does this concern relate to your study and ongoing interest in language?

Language is to my practice what thread is to my sculptures; sometimes barely noticeable yet it tightly links it all together.

Some interests seem to emerge and re-emerge at interesting times in one’s life.  We seem to absorb so much information that time is essential to let our brain breathe, process things, let them mature and re-emerge at a time when we’ll be the most receptive to their effects.  My interest in language, literature and writing has behaved in such a manner: making itself more or less apparent in my life and practice in waves.  Recently, books and texts I have written or read in the past – as a child, teenager, or during my studies –have been fuel for inspiration.  This is true for ‘The Éclair Project’ for, where I’ve used a text I wrote age 15 as a starting point for the whole work, which included the initial text in French, 6 translations of this text by women aged between 15 and 72 and one large sculptural piece.  The influence of text is often more subtle but nonetheless as relevant, for instance the presence of sand in some of my installations which is partly inspired by E.T.A Hoffman’s The Sandman.  Often, works are inspired by Italian absurdist writings like Pirandello’s Sei Personaggi in Cerca d’Autore, or even Saint Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince (the sculpture ‘Dessine-moi un mouton’ is currently shown at TFCW). 

I now embrace playing with text with a sculptural approach: building and deconstructing texts like installations, weighing words like ‘creaptures’ (creature-sculptures), acknowledging and creating threads, etc.  This is particularly relevant for a project I am currently working on for the event ARTiculate for Dramatic Need charity (artists such as Rachel Whiteread, Antony Gormley and the Chapman brothers are given written or oral testimonies to work on, resulting in works to be included in a one-night exhibition and auction where all proceeds will go to children in need in South Africa). 

Adeline de Monseignat, Jonny (from ‘The Creapture Project’), 2013.

Language is to my practice what thread is to my sculptures; sometimes barely noticeable yet it tightly links it all together.

What is the relationship between the overriding themes of femininity and fertility in your work and the material selections you make in your practice?

Pure female intuition.

Your works feel extremely intimate both in their subject matter and their realization. How does this relate to your utilization of craft methods that necessitate the role of the hand?

I often feel like making a piece come to life might be the closest thing to giving birth I have experienced so far.

I often feel like making a piece come to life might be the closest thing to giving birth I have experienced so far.  The whole body is involved; the act is physical and intuitive.  Also, more often than not, the process informs the work.  My favorite anecdote is the one of the process of mirroring the inner surface of handblown glass for the ‘Creapture Project’, which involved the making of creatures in collaboration with artists, philosophers based on their weight and length as newborns.  Each glass vessel was thus a biomorphic and anthropomorphic substitute for the idea of a newborn.  In order for the poured-in mirroring chemical liquids to cover the entirety of the inner glass surface, I had the rock the vessel side by side for five long uninterrupted minutes.  It felt like having to put a baby to sleep, making any slight hesitation or disruption of the to-and-fro movement possibly detrimental to the subject.  I was then suddenly aware of the weight of newborns and the one of a mother’s commitment to her child’s well-being. 

In other cases, when projects are too large for me to undertake all by myself, I have to ask the help of fabricators.  At first, I was afraid I’d feel less connected to my work.  But my fabricators have always been the best surrogate mothers; keeping me up-to-date with the progress of things, listening to my every concern and need and reassuring me on all levels.  Even if I’m less physically active in the initial stages of the process, my involvement and commitment never fail to compensate the lack of initial contact, especially since I make a point to be involved in the most significant parts of the making and installing.

Where can we see your work in the following months?

At ARTiculate, a charity project for Dramatic Need on 27 November alongside Jake and Dinos Chapman, Jiliane Delstein, Tom Gallant, Whitney McVeigh, Tom Price, Stuart Semple, Rachel Whiteread and in The London Project, a group show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Gerson Zevi Gallery running from 30 November 2013 to 5 January 2014.


Adeline de Monseignat’s work can be seen at The Future Can Wait at Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4DA until ­­­­17 October.

Visit her website for more information on her practice.