Julie Roch-Cuerrier’s work addresses the cultural implications of making printed images and the contemporary critical issues that arise from printed artworks. She examines the potential and the diversity of the medium, the richness that arises from experimentation and the interconnections between techniques of print. Printmaking nourishes popular culture; it is a medium that serves both the realistic and the imaginary, creating images that offer an insightful portrayal of contemporary society, a notion thoroughly embedded in Roch-Cuerrier’s practice. Her current project, The National Geographic Atlas of the World is the result of a research project on the impression of world maps. Roch-Cuerrier sands off the maps from old atlases and creates new types of ink made from the dust of the old maps. The National Geographic Atlas of the World questions the vulnerability of cartographic space, using the atlas as a metaphor for more complex historical and philosophical questions. There is a certain fragility attached to the meticulously erased pages: they are the remnants of something that was lost at time. The outcome is physiologically fascinating and philosophically improbable. The National Geographic Atlas of the World is an unfinished piece, in a constant state of becoming; a beautiful artefact of a peculiar cartographer’s research.
Roch-Cuerrier is currently studying printmaking at the Royal College of Art. She has previously studied at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Concordia University, Montreal. Her exhibitions include the International Print Biennale, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bainbridge Open, Embassy Tea Gallery, London, Animal Kingdom, Maison Villebon, Beloeil, (solo show) all 2014. She has also won the National Glass Centre Residency Prize in 2014, FIMA Emerging Artist Award in 2013 and was nominated for the Albert Dumouchel Prize in 2011.
What is it about Young Masters that you are most interested in?
A lot of my work is an exploration of historical cultural objects, which takes form through the deconstructions of traditional art making processes. Through this deconstruction, I am looking back at the history and the tradition of cultural artifacts and trying to explore it with a contemporary perspective. To take part in Young Masters is a great opportunity for me to show my work along side Old Masters and see what opens up from this dialogue.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
The National Geographic Atlas of the World is the result of a research project on the impression of world maps. I have been sanding off maps of old atlases and I am researching ways to create ink incorporating the collected atlas of the world’s pigments. I am interested in the potential and the implications behind this new material. Historical and metaphysical ideas are retained in this ink. In using the atlas dust as the pigments to make my own printing ink, I am looking back at the history and the tradition of printmaking. The whole project questions the vulnerability of cartographic space, using the atlas as a metaphor for much complex historical and philosophical questions.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
One has to situate the Atlas in a historical context of erasure; i.e. Rauschenberg’s erased de Kooning drawing. But more than the act of erasure, I’m interested in the documentary nature and in the transformative possibility of found objects. One artist who I find has an interesting take on the printed material is John Latham. I like the playfulness in his work and his unconventional approach to making art. I also recently discovered the work of Jerome Harrington. He is interested in how meanings and values become interwoven with the materiality of the object. Both in Latham and Harrington’s work there is this interaction between a historical object and the present, between the physicality of material and a mental conception of it. Those are ideas I am also interested in.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I was born in Montreal, Canada, and moved to London last fall to complete my MA in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art. Before starting the MA I didn’t have an extensive knowledge of traditional printmaking techniques. I decided to apply to the printmaking program because I was interested in the cultural implications of making printed images and in the contemporary critical issues that arise from printed artworks. It is this desire to create art embedded in contemporary culture as much as in a tradition of old masters prints that brought me to develop in my artistic practice a commitment to the printed image.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I knew I wanted to be an artist from a really young age. I told my parents I wanted to be a painter at the age of 6. Art is something that was always a part of who I am and it is also what shapes the way I see my future.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
Art is about speaking to yourself and to the experience that you have had. Art is about delivering what is in your mind, have an idea and transpose it into image, getting the closest possible to language. I am really passionate about music; if I weren’t a visual artist I would probably produce music. There are themes I’m obsessed with and that I am trying to comprehend through my art. I would be really interested to see how those could transpose through sound as opposed to images.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
This project I developed over the last 6 months with the Atlas is something I am really excited about. I have come to see this book almost as a sketchbook because I have worked on it hundreds of hours, and I learned a lot with the Atlas about my creative process and about my artistic ideals. Being selected to take part in the Newcastle International Print Biennale this summer was a turning point. In applying to the biennale, I was interested to see if the Atlas project could fit in a contemporary take on printmaking. Being selected for the Young Masters is also an exciting opportunity.
What are your plans for the future?
I am only halfway through my MA and I am really looking forward to the next year. I still have a lot to learn and I know I am exactly in the right place to pursue my artistic career: somewhere critical and engaging. As for the new piece I am working on, I am interested in having an expanded approach to printmaking, making works that investigate printmaking but don’t necessarily use printmaking techniques.