Guy Laramée: The Beauty of Creation

An Interview with the Interdisciplinary Artist

The Sacrifice, Painting by Guy Laramée

Guy Laramée is an interdisciplinary artist, playwright, director, litterateur, music composer, musical instrument designer, singer, songwriter, sculptor, painter and book artist. His list of achievements is long. He has received more than thirty art grants. He was awarded the Canada Council’s Joseph S. Stauffer award for musical composition.

Guy Laramée directed short films like Marche de Nuit, with Henri-Louis Chalem, 1996; CrystalKey Bee, 1997. As a part of his master’s thesis, he researched the concepts of creativity and imagination among contemporary artists at Concordia University, 2002. A book artist, he also earned a degree in visual arts from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Montreal, 2004.

Guy is in preparation for his forthcoming exhibition titled ‘Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Arts’, Halsey Institute, South Carolina, USA.

In the true sense, you have shown versatility through your skills in many disciplines. But through all these, you remained an artist at heart. What inspired you to take up so many different forms of art, particularly keeping in mind the dedication you needed to achieve excellence in each of them?

The inspiration dictates its own channels. It is not about virtuosity or achieving anything, anything other than to be faithful to inspiration. The alleged virtuosity is but a marker of dedication.

Through your practices in literature, music, painting and the other explorations of various art forms did you find more unity than diversity among all genres you have explored? Is there any common thread that binds them all?

INSPIRATION ! I’m sorry to sound redundant, but you have to be inspired. You have to feel that your life is carried away by a feeling, to the point of losing yourself in it, to the point even of no longer knowing the boundaries between you and what drives you. In fact, the beauty of creation is to slowly discover that you never were an individual in the first place.

The Cloud of Unknowing, Artwork by Guy Laramée
The Cloud of Unknowing

How has art evolved in your hands over the years? How the philosophy that induced so many surreal and serene works of art has been influenced by gathering of experience?

Experiences were many, here and abroad, but in a way experiences hinder creation. You get stuck in memories and then art becomes art about art about art. The same circular trap you find Euro-American cultures now – mostly in Europe it seems. Too much culture. Culture about culture about culture. But that is but a sign of the trapping of ‘reflexivity’, of thinking particularly, but of the whole of consciousness. We must not forget that reflectivity, the capacity to reflect, is basically the capacity to see oneself. ‘To know is to know that one knows’. One can get trapped into that and then we get the narcissism of contemporary art, of most of the post-industrial cultures, in fact, anthropocentrism, etc.

Your fieldwork for anthropological studies got you in touch with the healers of Peruvian Amazon and their stories. Please let us know a little bit about that experience.

We think Imagination is the epitome of Human endeavours. Einstein said it, it must be true! (See the paradox…) But there are cultures that don’t even have the word imagination in their language! The Shipibos of the Peruvian Amazon are one. In their world, everything they perceive in their mind is true. It is a vision, not an imagination. They do not fathom that it is their own creation. They think it comes from somewhere else.

Stupa, Sand blasted Book Art by Guy Laramée

Can you briefly describe the process that led the ‘sandblasting technique’ being accidentally discovered by you, given an artistic maturity?

I was working in a metal shop for a big commission and was simultaneously studying anthropology for a master degree. The idea came to put a book in the sandblasting cabinet and that was it. Don’t ask me where that idea came from!

On a lighter note, with your background in writing and appreciation of literature have you ever felt guilty of ‘sand-blasting’ books?

Guilt, remorse is the daily bread of the true artist anyway, nothing special here. If you never feel unqualified, not fit for this job, then you’d better do something else in life. Agnes Martin explains it very clearly: ‘the feeling of failure is part of creation.’ So in a way, the guilt of blasting books is part of that. Just another facet of it. I’m sorry that I could not find a better way to express my gratitude towards Creation.

You have also been involved in teaching. Please talk us through the experience of your interactions with your students. Has there been any shifting of focus for your students over the years? Has there been any learning for you as well out of these interactions?

Teaching has been a truly rewarding experience. But, the student body has been totally contaminated with conceptual art in particular, and conceptual thinking in general. It is no longer possible to teach art (Was it ever possible?). Maybe it is no longer possible to make art either. As a civilization, we are rapidly losing sight of the contemplative, drunk as we are by the intellect, concepts, language, etc.

Only hope is that there are some young individuals who feel that and, because of the daring nature of their age, are fresh and willing to throw conceptual art to the garbage. They are willing to unplug the academic artificial respirator on which this ‘art’ form depends. This is our only hope. Because other than that, new conceptual art will continue harnessing itself to Big Money and we won’t ever be able to see the world without the filter of language. Amen.

We lost that, the feeling that ‘Poetry is Prophecy’ (See Leavitt). The Celts were at the same place like the Shipibos. Then with the rise of industry and of the Individual as a new centre, we started thinking about ourselves as makers, individual, independent, and thus totally cut from a bigger whole (sniff…).

Petras, Sand blasted Book Art by Guy Laramée

What is your advice to a young learner for attaining sustained brilliance in any field?

And then work again.

Unplug your TV, the internet, trash your cell phone for God’s sake, walk a lot, see that your head is always ruminating the same garbage, don’t try to stop it, just see it, and put your focus elsewhere, on the colours of trees, the shape of clouds, sit on a park bench for a change, go climb a mountain, walk in a library without watching the titles, don’t ever think you can make it without spending a minimum of 6 hours in the studio every day, six days a week.

And don’t hide from solitude.

Find more of his work at his website.

Image Courtesy: Guy Laramée