Darkrooms and drawing pens with artist Marie Cloquet

Both fragile and evocative, the body of work of Marie Cloquet (1976) captures the duality of lateral worlds and the battle between harmony and failure, a practice she calls “Collateral damage.” With her work going on show at this weekend’s Art on Paper fair (from 11th to 13th September at Bozar), we sat down with the Ghent-based artist to talk rejection and reinvention.

At its core, what is your work about?

Collateral damage.

Studio Nouadhibou I 2007 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper 260x570cm

Studio Nouadhibou I 2007 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper 260x570cm

What is its starting point and statement?

In search for harmony I regularly run into complete failure. The idea of a place where less would be more mostly comes out to threatening poverty. So far, the interesting point consists in turning failure into a starting point, as is working on a constant redefinition of periphery and marginality.

Annie Gentils Gallery 2013 Nouadhibou III 2010 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on canvas 280x510cm

Annie Gentils Gallery 2013 Nouadhibou III 2010 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on canvas 280x510cm

Can you talk to us about your approach in general? What characterises your work?

I glance sideways to the things that surround us. We strive for a kind of world in which so many elements are rejected and renounced. Still they remain existent. Many of my works contain ‘Nouadhibou’ in their title. Nouadhibou is a port city in Western Africa. Along with the beauty of its wide, white sandy beaches I found a harsh, rejected society. The intersection of the splendour and the rugged life struck me. I realised it’s actually a parallel world, where people and progress get stuck. My work aims to put this concern to light, and to share it with others.

Nouadhibou VI 2013 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper and canvas 275x420cm

Nouadhibou VI 2013 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper and canvas 275x420cm

Scorched earth III 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper and canvas 200x300cm

Scorched earth III 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper and canvas 200x300cm

How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?

I collect my impressions through photographs, and use these images like sketches. The rough and blurry prints I make in my darkroom serve as elements for the mental reconstruction I want tot achieve. As the prints are made on drawing paper with a light-sensitive emulsion, I am able to use watercolour to paint on and over the prints. By bringing various images together, scale distortions and different perspective lines, the work becomes a new entity on its own.

There is not just one thing to achieve, the challenge is to reinvent yourself over and over again.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?

I’d say there are two decisive elements that were crucial for my development as an artist, the first one being the omnipresence of architecture in my family, a profession I once wanted to pursue, which was my entry ticket to art school. The second one is my father’s passion for photography. I started using his camera when I was 8 years old. I still use it up to this day, as photography is my preferred way of sketching.

corched earth III 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 200x300cm

corched earth III 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 200x300cm

Scorched earth I 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel n paper on canvas 330x530cm

Scorched earth I 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 330x530cm

What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?

Although I live and work in Belgium, my main concern is the world and the raging chain of events that never seem to stop. I guess the challenge is to know your roots, be able to use what has been done before you and to propel all of that in a wider context.

What does success look like to you?

After being active as an artists for more than two decades, I’ve realised that success is a step-by-step story. I want to move forward and every stage I accomplish feels like success. There is not just one thing to achieve, it’s the challenge to reinvent yourself over and over again.

Scorched earth IV 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 260x430cm

Scorched earth IV 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 260x430cm

Studio Obstacles I 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 290x360cm

Studio Obstacles I 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 290x360cm

To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?

According to me, art has this unconventional ability to point out obstacles, the most enriching part of this being its capacity to propose new ways of reaching for solutions.

Which Belgian artists do you follow, look at for inspiration? Either from the past or the present.

I’ve been inspired by so many artists in the past, and will be by many more in the future, as every moment in life has its own specific atmospheres, inspirations and aspirations.

Studio Obstacles II 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 210x230cm

Studio Obstacles II 2015 light-sensitive emulsion and aquarel on paper on canvas 210x230cm

Studio Obstacles II 2015 light-sensitive emulsion on paper on canvas 210x230cm

Studio Obstacles II 2015 light-sensitive emulsion on paper on canvas 210x230cm

On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work? And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?

I am lucky to have a very supportive family and to have a few friends that aren’t afraid to share their opinion of my work, which is, honestly, indispensable to my practice.

mariecloquet.com