ARTS & CULTURE | Ciel Patenaude unveils “The Knowing”

Ballpoint pen drawing by Ciel Patenaude. “Raven”

Ballpoint pen drawing by Ciel Patenaude. “Raven”

By Brent Morton —

Williams Lake’s multi-talented Ciel Patenaude, whose brand new exhibit opens on April 2 at the Station House Gallery, took a moment to sit down to discuss her epic new collection.

Ciel, imagine you’re in an elevator, on the ground floor, and in walks the curator of a famous gallery. You have 30 seconds to tell her about your current art project before the 14th floor. What do you say?

The Knowing is a set of pen and ink prints that were created to help people reconnect with their intuition, personal truth, emotional experience, and internal intelligence system: their knowing. They are intended to reframe the relationship we have to nature so as to produce more connection and inner reflection.

Can you talk about your back-story as an artist? When did you start making art?

My mom has stuff from when I was two and three years old that is actually much better than anything I produce now, really—much freer in its expression.

I have always loved creating, but I suppose was hard hit by the fragility in one’s sense of self that often comes with adolescence, and pretty much stopped all creative work from that time. It’s a deeply personal thing to put art out there, and this combined with the fear that it wouldn’t be well received was just too much for my ego. It was much safer for me to focus on science and such logical things, and so I let my drawing and painting and everything else fall to the side in favour of the concrete.

I suppose it’s a part of my nature that couldn’t entirely be suppressed, however, as I would still spend the majority of my time in lecture hall drawing pictures of people in class or random imaginative objects, far more enthralled with the creative process than I was with organic chemistry.

It took a pretty intense depression for me to realize how far from my soul path I had been wandering, and how lost I really was without a sense of my own creativity. After that I started to make art more frequently, but still riddled with intense self doubt, I found it too uncomfortable to put in out there for the world to see. It was only this past year that things have shifted for me, really, thanks to some on-going self work and the inspiring influence of this super human I know, and I find myself suddenly totally ready to declare myself an artist. It feels incredible.

Clearly, “the natural” is primary in this work. Is there any sort of environmental statement happening here?

I see enhanced environmental awareness as yet another natural outcome of people having contact with their own unique experience of truth (along with no longer fighting each other over religious ideology, no longer over-consuming, and generally just being way nicer people). I feel that if we start to view the natural world as a system that we are a part of (as the pieces request of us) and which is giving us feedback and insight all the time, environmental concerns change from ‘how do we save the planet?’ to ‘what is needed to sustain and support this system that I see as not separate from me at all?’

Describe the process of your work. What is it about this seemingly painstaking process that attracts and holds your attention?

I see art as an opportunity for healing, both in the cathartic release experienced by the artist and in the inspiration to be found by those who view or interact with it. With that in mind, while I’m drawing I’ll intentionally focus my thoughts and energies on a particular emotional experience – confidence, fearlessness, gratitude, peace, et cetera – intending to convey that particular emotion through the strokes on the page and the image itself. That kind of focus keeps me really zoned in, and it’s like dropping into some kind of cavernous space or floating in water for hours. But then sometimes I listen to the CBC and yell at people who I disagree with, and that helps focus, too.

Ballpoint pen drawings by Ciel Patenaude.  “Frog & Plantain”

Ballpoint pen drawings by Ciel Patenaude. “Frog & Plantain”

Can you talk about the medium of this work and perhaps offer some insight into why you choose to work with these materials?

I generally draw in Bic pen. Not the best choice of medium, really, and I am planning – now that I am a serious artist – to take the plunge and start working in real art people’s tools. I’m hoping they have something not dissimilar to a Bic pen out there, but that might not leak all over my hand while I’m drawing.

You are working on a deck of cards, yes? Are you planning to produce copies of these—like decks that are widely available? What will set these cards apart from others on the market?

That I am! I am intending for the deck – a set of 52 cards – to be released in the fall of this year, procrastination allowing. I may look into a crowdfunding event to get it going, hoping to have them available as widely as possible.

Compared to other ‘insight’-type decks on the market, my style tends to be significantly ‘harder’ than most spiritually-minded works: less colour and softness, more sharp lines. Also the basic premise: the deck will encompass the relationship that we have with our own bodies and what kind of intelligence we get from there, as well as with the elements of the world around us. It’s going to be quite complex, I suppose, and will come with a guidebook so as to help navigate the process.

These are amazing pieces. Best of luck with the show and beyond. See you on April 2 at the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake.

‘The Knowing’ opening reception will be on April 2, in the upstairs gallery at the Station House Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m.

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