Interview – Sarah Pupo

Sarah Pupo, an artist from Montreal, joined us from November 2016 to February 2017 as a Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec Residency in India. Her work integrates painting and drawing, installation and self-taught, provisional animation techniques. Her approach to making things prioritizes intuition, associative thinking and the flux of chance and control. The repetitious action of drawing (sitting down in a particular place, using a set of special objects) and the rhythmic, slowed down practice of animation open up a luminal space where times moves differently and it is possible to look and sense in a different way. Dream, emotion, memory, ghost, fantasy, all that can’t be thought through in a linear manner are addressed more easily through these rituals of making.

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We asked her a few questions about her work and her time in Mumbai: 

What does animation mean to you?

For me, animation is all about process and time. When I am deep into working on an animation time seems to stand still, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together very very slowly and decisions are being made incrementally. This makes room for intuition as I often feel like I am taking a back seat to the decision making process and the content of the piece is just unfolding, one movement triggering the next and the next. I only need to listen and follow.

Animation also does funny things with time – when you are working it stretches time out and then when the piece is being viewed it condenses time. Both of these times exist in an animation, fast and slow movement simultaneously.

Finally, I love how transformative animation is. Something that is mundane or drab looking in life becomes smoothed out, sharpened, glows or changes when it is photographed and projected; a three dimensional object becomes a creature of shadow, two shapes overlap and combine in unexpected ways, the flicker of light in a room transforms a scene or casts a strange glow. There is a really basic pleasure in giving something life and watching it move.

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Most memorable/favorite artwork from your trip?

This was a tie between 2 works I saw at the Kochi Muzeris Biennale: Prime by Camille Normant and Aphelion by Pedro Gomez-Egaña.  Normant’s work was a cluster of benches set in a room that looked out onto the sea. Deep disembodied humming filled the room and as I sat down on one of the benches I jumped to feel one of the ghost voices vibrate through my own body. Each bench had a different voice. The room was both restful and (literally) vibrating with energy.

In Aphelion, Pedro Gomez-Egaña had set up a very thoughtful shadow theatre. The audience was ushered into a small room, doors were closed and we were plunged into darkness. A tiny ball of light emerged on a glowing horizon line and a voice filled the room suggesting many overlapping narratives/histories of a ship at sea. It was poetic and played with how many stories one could project on such a simple image. At the end the doors burst open, light poured in from outside and the mechanism was revealed. I liked both the celebration and unraveling of this simple magic.

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Do you have a dream project? 

I have lots of dream projects! Two of which I started on while I was in India- the first is to make an artist book of my watercolours and the second is to animate a poem, Kok, by my friend Kristin Eiriksdottir. I guess what these both have in common is the desire to combine text and image. Text is an element that I have wanted to introduce in my work for a long time but have not figured out how to negotiate it yet. To be continued…

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What have some of the major influences of this trip been for you? 

This trip has influenced me in many ways, a lot of which will emerge slowly in my work as I process it over the next months (and years, I’m sure).

Something that left a big impression was the crumbling and regeneration of things. How as one wall was falling another was being built. How things were decaying but plant life was taking over. How one layer after another was peeling from a painted wall to reveal the layers underneath and underneath. I love how many traces of the past come up to the surface in Bombay. How fragments of past lives and architectures and new industry/structures and ways are living side by side all the time.

The trash and discarded objects that were around also made an impression on me – from man made trash and wrappers to fallen palm leaves and organic detritus in the streets. I loved how much stuff was just lying around everywhere – little coloured bits and weird shapes in the dust. I started making objects for the first time because of this, small painted paper sculptures.

And obviously (I know its cliché to say but) colour was a big one. The browns and yellows of buildings and dust punctuated by the colour of clothing hanging in every nook and cranny, on people, in wedding and Christmas decorations, painted on temples. I love that the go-to for everything seems to be bright colour rather than neutrals and the combinations of colour and pattern clash are incredible.

A quick list of other influences: textiles and the textile markets, block printing, small alters and devotionals everywhere, the simultaneous new growth/freshness and decay, the fast/slow pace of everything in the city, people’s resourcefulness and ability to make do and improvise provisionally, the crush of sound, smell and activity that constantly overwhelmed my senses.

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