top of page

The artistic practice of Gonzague Verdenal revolves around two essential dimensions: image and language. As such, his work takes the form of drawings, performances, interactive installations, books, and travelogues.  


As part of his exploration of image, Gonzague is especially interested in ways through which an image is revealed and without which there would be no image. For instance, a hand’s movement in space can allow for an image to take form and appear to an audience (Installation Pituba R1, Galerie Canizares and 500 watts, Maison de la Culture Rosemont). Piercing through the surrounding vacuum and accompanied by a projector, hands are invited to fix the sharpness of a suspended image. Gonzague also uses mirrors to create multiple “tunnels” which—through a carefully considered perspective—are capable of leading to unlikely places (Installation Hg-80—Tunnel, Centre d’Histoire de Montréal).


This invitation to reveal images is often accompanied by the deliberate creation of confusion and obstacles. Participating audience members may be attached to a spool of thread that unwinds as they wander through the exhibition space (Hg-80 Corridors, Dare-Dare; Pituba R1, Canizares Gallery). For the presentation of a series of diptychs (Quem muito se evita, se convive), photos were pasted on the walls of a busy street lined with irregularly shaped paving stones.

Obstacles are particularly present during Gonzague’s drawing process. Very often, drawing is performed sitting in cramped places or while on the move so as to highlight the immediate, fleeting nature of the process and help reveal the end product in just a few strokes, as if by magic. 

Drawings are, therefore, made in situ: in a plane (In flight AC 871, Series: l’Espace du dessin), on buses in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil (Sitting in a bus without shock absorber, Series: l’Espace du dessin), in a small lift in Istanbul, on the Trans-Siberian Railway, during a show, on a bicycle, or even walking together with a friend—one holding a drawing book while the other draws.


Inspired by the street carnivals of Salvador de Bahia and to complement his work on movement, Gonzague decided to take classical ballet and modern dance classes. These, he hoped, would make his drawing line more fluid and allow for the drawing to liberate itself from technical constraints, moving closer to a more accomplished and intimate relationship with form.


This relationship can be observed in the drawings depicting everyday shapes and objects: the position of a fridge in a kitchen and the sandals of friends on a café terrace... (Landscapes and objects, Series: The invention of everyday life). The question here is not so much to represent but rather to revisit the raw intensity accompanying the presence of such objects and shapes—something that their everyday use makes us forget.


Gonzague Verdenal |2 km from Radisson (QC)

The second dimension central to Gonzague’s work is language. His first explorations of this domain began with the installation Le Mur Bleu (2003, Montreal) and were further deepened by his encounter with the anechoic chambers used in submarines, in which the close range of whispered words sparked an interest in the relationship between space and word, particularly on the imprint a spoken word leaves on the materiality of space. As such, Gonzague’s work asks questions about the way we perceive the spoken word in space and how we can trace the presence of our voice within that space.


The installation Every door has a word as its keeper (Espaço Bavna, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil) suggests an answer to these questions. As part of the installation, visitors are given an opportunity to trace their voice in space, here a narrow corridor usually reserved for the gallery’s service staff. To begin with, visitors are invited to write a word on a balloon using different colours of fresh paint. As the balloons deflate, they touch different surfaces, leaving marks in the various colours of paint used to write the words. For the visitors, it is as if they were able to see the traces made by their own voices travelling in space. The resulting constellation of words—now dissolved by the breath—not only defines the space but also becomes the object of a cartography of voices displaced in it, thereby reconnecting with poetry that transcends space.


The magical word for the incantation.

A password. The abracadabra that opens both eyes and space when the magic happens.


These words inspired the performance 25 de dezembro (Village de Uauá, Brazil). As part of the performance, Gonzague embarked on a long and arduous bus journey to the small village of Uauá in the heart of the mystical Sertão region of Brazil—a region full of magic and messianic influences. On Christmas Day, in front of the parish church of Saint John the Baptist, Gonzague—equipped with a megaphone—addressed the inhabitants in French. His intention was to reach the “other” through a language that is unknown to them, as if imaginary, where the melody of sounds bears no immediate resemblance to any concrete meaning, thereby creating a moment of pure, unadulterated chaos.


In the Carro do som performance (Alagoinhas, Brazil), Gonzague used the same idea of expressing himself in French, this time far from large urban centres. He rented a small van or “o carro de som.” These vans come with an extremely powerful sound system and are commonly used in the villages of the state of Bahia for live broadcasts of advertising or propaganda. The performance was intended to make the audience mimic the speaker, here Gonzague, and attempt to express themselves in French—without having any previous knowledge of the language—by humming the sounds of the speaker’s words as if it were a tune of a melody they had just heard.

Gonzague has also published a book on the American Southwest, 4430 miles au compteur (4430 miles on the odometer), Montreal: Les 400 coups and compiled several travelogues of his trips to Israel (הזמן עושה את שלוTime will do its own), Iran (در خمشى خروش كنBe loud in your silence), Japan (ブラブラするWandering around, Russia (Из России с любовьюGood wishes from Russia), Lebanon (بعدنا; After us), Brazil (Venturis VentisTo the winds to come), Mexico (Y el mar se sienta junto a míAnd the sea sits by my side), Canada (Sic Itur Ad AstraThis is how one rises to the stars), Quebec (ᐊᓄᕆ ᐅᖅᖁᓯᔪnThe wind gets hot), Portugal (Buscar na linha fria do horizonteSearching the cold line of the horizon) and Turkey (Kuşlar da Gitti; The Birds Have Also Gone: Long Stories).

The entirety of Gonzague’s artistic work employs multiple media to trick the eye and confuse the senses so that he is able to circumscribe, domesticate, and transcend his relationship with magical realism. His travelogues are filled with images from all over the world and help foreground the presence of reality and our relationship while contextualizing his artistic practice.


Translate from french by Kasia Nowak

    bottom of page