October 12, 2013 to January 26, 2014
Organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and curated by Sharona Adamowicz-Clements
Karine Giboulo (b. 1980) What is My Name? (detail) 2013 wood, plexiglass, polymer clay, acrylic paint, and mixed media, Courtesy of the artist L2013.27.21
Karine Giboulo (b. 1980) City of Dreams (detail) 2013 polymer clay, acrylic paint, plexiglass and mixed media dimensions variable: footprint approx. 9.16 x 18.375 ft. Courtesy of the artist
Montreal-based Karine Giboulo is a multi-disciplinary artist who creates work in two- and three-dimensional form. A large portion of her oeuvre is made up of dioramas populated by doll-like figures. Many of these microcosms, some developed over elaborate and interconnected sculptural installations, represent distinct nations and parts of the world including Canada, Africa, India, China and the Caribbean. Giboulo explores complex social issues such as environmentalism, urbanization, globalization in the information age, and the pursuit of consumer goods and material wealth. Through these topics, she comments on modern society’s quest for quick fixes and superficial fulfillment. Plagued by the struggle for survival and a desperate search for purpose, humanity seems burdened by social angst in the face of a rapidly changing and unpredictable world.
In her representation of the flawed experiences that both divide and bind us, Giboulo reveals the cause and effect of socio-economic gaps: injustice, suffering, and poverty. Her work suggests that at the root of these problems are mass ignorance, cruelty, selfishness, and indifference. While Giboulo states that the central message of her work is the absurdity of life, she inevitably demonstrates that human behaviour, not life, is most absurd.
Giboulo is adept at delivering her critical commentary subtly and slowly over a lengthy course of viewing. On the surface, her work is full of childlike fun and whimsy but upon more careful consideration, it is clear that it carries powerful messages. Popular with a wide range of audiences, Giboulo’s oeuvre finds its strength in its ability to entertain and educate at the same time. Combining fact with fiction, reality with the imagination, and comedy with tragedy, she embraces life’s contradictions through a distinct and symbolic visual vocabulary all her own.
The title Small and Strange World(s) captures the essence of Giboulo’s work. “Small” is as much a reference to the Lilliputian societies that Giboulo creates as it is to the idea that our planet is becoming smaller with increasing international travel, cultural globilization, and growing economic dependency. “Strange”, however, refers to the unfamiliarity and disconnectedness that exists between people. Despite the increasing contact and proximity between cultures and nations, the artist feels that we still lack understanding and acceptance of one another. Giboulo juxtaposes diverse cultures and people on the opposite side of the socio-economic spectrum, highlighting their differences and resulting in a sense of divisiveness and alienation. “Strange” also speaks to the imaginary world systems that are born out of the artist’s mind. Some are magical realms of possibility and escape; others are places of uncanny nightmares.
Giboulo’s dioramas are developed over long periods of time beginning with field research and journalistic-style documentation. Her travels allow her to understand her subject matter, which she brings to life through the objects, background sets, and toy-like figures that she hand-sculpts. Her figures, in particular, require hours of labourious work to reflect distinct physiognomic traits. Giboulo’s body of work can best be described as detail-oriented, visionary, and emotionally engaging.
Karine Giboulo’s Small Strange World(s) is the first survey exhibition of the artist’s work to consider her creative development over the course of approximately a decade. It includes over fifty artworks in a variety of media from paintings and drawings to prints, photographs, and sculptures. Small Strange World(s) also includes new work created specifically for this exhibition, dealing with themes of Canadian history and identity connected with the mandate of the McMichael.
This exhibition is part of the McMichael’s mission to showcase remarkable contemporary Canadian artists who are making a difference in the Canadian and international art communities. Karine Giboulo belongs informally to a group of artists who have found unique expression through the art of dioramas and who are fast gaining worldwide recognition for their original work.
By Sharona Adamowicz-Clements
Assistant Curator, Collections
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