Sandrine Llouquet makes art that is disturbing and joyful, mundane and fantastical. At the heart of her practice lies contradiction – a device she employs frequently to subvert reality and suggest new ways of seeing. Using incongruous materials in relation to her subjects, the artist provokes feelings of anxiety and nonplus in the viewer, followed strangely by an acceptance of the anomalous images.
In her latest exhibition, Troi Oi!, Llouquet once again challenges our rational perceptions: house paint applied to glass windows, concrete sculptures of miniature airplanes, a Flash animation of figures falling from the sky, light boxes of inverted drawings on white Plexiglas and a video featuring an ant and the wing of a dragonfly. Drawing has always constituted the greatest part of Llouquet’s production, but the artist has again demonstrated that she is equally comfortable in a range of media. As in her previous shows, Troi Oi! is an environment with works that were created in response to each other. For example, when the decision was made to screen the animation, the artist elected to paint directly on the windows to veil the gallery. Additionally, her drawings were transformed into light boxes to render them more visible in the darkened room.
This adaptation of the artworks to their environment is by no means an afterthought, but in fact an integral part of the artistic process. Llouquet has stated, “Adaptability to a place and to a context is a quality necessary not only to a person in daily life, but also to the contemporary artist in their work.” Llouquet’s work is developed to a state of near fruition in and by itself; only at the end is it altered in order to become part of the entire surrounding.
Rarely specific to any one theme, Llouquet’s art is inspired by a variety of sources – from her own personal history to media reports to random events. Despite this, there does exist a thread that seems to connect the work in Troi Oi!: transformation. Whether undergoing a transformation or already metamorphosed, the figures, creatures and objects in Llouquet’s work appear comfortable, natural, even banal in their new condition.
Llouquet affords her subjects space, reducing them to simple, ambiguous images that show no ostentation. That her subjects are uncomplicated suggests their potential to be interpreted on many levels. Eluding fixed meanings, they have the ability to elicit a powerful response from viewers through their lack of remarkable characteristics. Like pauses in music the emptiness of the subjects’ surroundings adds to the tension of the overall composition.
With her video piece, Llouquet manages to find that space in real experiences and objects. The video is quite basic in its elements: a tiled counter, an ant and a dragonfly wing. While logic may tell us that the ant is interested in purloining the wing as food or material for its nest, one cannot help wondering if in fact the ant is trying to live out a fantasy to fly. Llouquet allows us to confront not only our own fantasies, but also the strange events we encounter daily in real life.
The title of this exhibition borrows from the Vietnamese expression ‘troi oi’. Uttered in response to an occurrence beyond one's control and signifying frustration, dismay, surprise or delight, the emphatic phrase is ambiguous without a context. Oscillating between unease and comfort, gloom and optimism, Llouquet’s work poignantly communicates the duality present in life.