Artist impressions – Francois Morelli

Francois Morelli is the India-Quebec residency exchange artist 2014-15, as part of the CALQ residency collaboration. His residency period is 4 months, from Dec 2014 to March 2015. Morelli pursues a trans-disciplinary practice often questioning the status of an artwork through its creative process and its reception.  He is interested in notions of passage, circulation and transformation. His art often echoes a past action or event while examining (not only in space but also in time) relationships between the artist and society, between individuals themselves or between an individual and an art-work. Based in Montreal he lived in the New York from 1981 to 1991, and received an MFA from Rutgers University in 1983. He teaches at Concordia University in Montreal. We asked Francois Morelli to share some thoughts.

How has your residency experience been so far?

Swimmingly may be the best way of qualifying my residency so far. Fluid and filled with challenges, WAA’s infrastructure has granted me an incredible platform to do my work, explore Mumbai, meet people and claim a base to travel from. This being my first trip to India and Asia for that matter, the learning curve was extensive ranging from every day undertakings to rethinking deep social and psychological preconceptions of otherness based on stereotypes, fears and just plane ignorance on my part. Agitated and seemingly timeless at the beginning, the challenge was to find a comfortable working pace that will lead to some form of closure,… far from being an athlete I would compare it to a mid distance runner who has had to pace himself and discover things he hadn’t been confronted with due to an extremely different context. Strange after 40 years of practice built on displaced nomadic activities that my response would still be so juvenile. WAA ‘s infrastructure, its team as well as its commitment and connectedness to the Indian contemporary art world have made it an overall rich experience so far. Tremendous generosity and professionalism has made me grateful for such privileged living and working time/space.

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How has it facilitated / added to your practice?

If I came with certain objectives linked to my research interests and the residency accommodated my needs to pursue them, it also made it possible to address whatever came up as things unfolded. WAA’s deep understanding of the local and global terrain, its professional contacts and resources allowed me to think things out, address the multiplicity of ideas and possibilities as the emerged. All this was possible because the grounds for a regular studio schedule were secured by basic but adequate facilities and especially the open mindedness of the team that surrounded me. I felt sufficiently isolated and displaced while being supported and reassured. While my practice is set in its ways, it allowed me to pursue ideas and things I’ve been working on for years while still feeling supported in engaging with the present and embracing change as it emerged.

Could you share some experiences?

The various visitors coming through have reminded me how small the art world is, how short an artistic life really is and how much we have in common no matter how different we look and far apart we practice. From discovering that Reena Kallat and Jitish Kallat had been residents at Boreal Art Nature in Québec in the 1990’s to discovering the recently published Penguin anthology of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra poetry, I have been particularly moved by all the artists I have shared tea with at the WWA kitchen table; eating and drinking but mostly talking together and sharing what it means to make and how hard it is to maintain creative lives. The prices paid and the sacrifices made. An art moment: the welling of emotions while standing in front of a painting of Krishna at the Prince of Wales museum. A life moment: my first train-ride in second class travelling north at rush hour surrounded by a wagon full of men singing. A tourist moment: standing on the roof my hotel in Udaipur overlooking lake Pichola at sunrise and sunset observing the full moon. A consumer moment: walking into a paper factory in Sanganer and finding the largest and most beautiful piece of hand made watercolor paper I’d ever come across. A everyday moment: Every time I swim at the Mumbai Center YMCA.

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