Reviving Traditional Arts into Contemporary Forms
Posted by Osman on May 8, 2007
The first thought one encounters upon observing Denise Hudon’s work is that she’s an artist who goes beyond just putting paint on a canvas to express herself. She is so in tune with the “Earth”, that Denise goes deeper into ‘her’ to gather her raw materials & her inspiration. She has had a nomadic adventure through West Africa & Central Asia, where she researched & refined the arts of alchemy for her colours, extracting natural dyes from plants & also the art of making a rich textured, quick absorbing handmade paper, prepared form natural & recycled tropical fibers. She adopted traditional methods used in these cultures and revived them to contemporary forms in her works of art.
French speaking Denise was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1950, in the heart of French Canada. With a mixture of native Red Indian blood running in her veins, she’s pulled to the earth & its treasures for inspiration. Upon receiving her formal education in fine arts she began painting murals on public buildings. Later she specialized in Ceramic Sculpture while continuing her artistic career. All along, she taught painting, ceramics & fine arts for 15 years. In the early ‘80s, while in Montreal, Hudon’s work already featured dried fibers such as bamboo stalks and waste materials.
Hudon integrated handmade paper into her work in 1983 following the innovation of a casting concept of paper, she was chosen by the Quebec ministry of foreign trade to represent Quebec at the Art Show “Accent on Design” in New York, USA. In 1985 she moved to West Africa where she researched & experimented further into the art of paper casting with natural fibers. A wonderful experience blossoms through sharing her techniques with West African artists. The richness & power of the African culture become a source of inspiration for her. First in Togo, then in Ghana she creates paper with recycled fibers with tropical matter decors. Moving on to Mali, the orientation of her work integrated two techniques. The first concerns the transformation of vegetable fibers, (i.e. corn leaves, banana tree, leeks, cabbage, etc.) used in the fibers dough, this potpourri is dried & made into her paper medium & support for her works of art. Her second technique is her traditional method of extracting colour from flora & fauna. She was initiated to natural dyes by African native dyers. This sparks her next adventure to Central Asia in 1998 to continue the research on traditional vegetable dyes used traditionally for dyeing clothes, block prints & carpets, while discovering new fibers that can be incorporated into paper making. “Reviving traditional arts by adopting it into contemporary art is her trademark. Reflecting moods & other untouchable realities is her quest”.
The usages of earthen tone go on to re-establish Hudon as an artist who identifies herself closely with nature. With her decoctions she expresses her feelings & emotions. Triangular forms pointing in different directions can hardly go unnoticed in her work. The motifs she uses are familiar to the ones we see in South Asia. While some of these forms depict energy, others symbolize offerings to The Divine. Vibrant with alchemical symbolism, suffused with the colours of earth, snow, seed and fire, Denise juxtaposes shapes of textures on handmade paper. They are painted with the extracted dyes from plants, with the knowledge she gathered as a nomad in various lands. With dyes that have been collected from all over the world & also her own garden. A rebel’s touch to the pieces she creates in complete reliance in natural materials such as Dahlia, Marigold, Indigo & Lac, to paint her art works. Her work, intertwining poetry & magic, she is as much a landscape artist as one bringing out the versatility of human culture & parallel words.
Some of her works features a little bit of abstract Calligraphy too. In 2003, invited by the Canadian Embassy, she represented Canada at an international exhibition in Indonesia.. Denise Hudon has worked with Canadian, French, Ewe, Ashanti, Fon, Fulani, Toureg & Bamanan artists & artisans, exchanging techniques & know how. Traveling regularly to her native Quebec, Canada, she has maintained ties with Acadian & Ameriedian traditional dyes culture.
She was recently selected for a high profile visual arts exhibition reflecting Acadian culture that traveled in many cities of both France & Quebec. She has exhibited her work in Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Nantes, New York, Paris, Phnom Penh, Islamabad, New Delhi, Babako, Lome & many other cities in Canada & in France. “The Musee Acadien du Quebec” in Canada, the “Musee National du Mali” in Africa and the “Duta Art Foundation” in Indonesia acquired some of her paintings for their collections.