Élise Provencher. Expérimentations en atelier, 2022. Crédit photo: ENE / Jean-Sébastien Veilleux photographe.

Elise Provencher

Artist / Summer 2022

Élise Provencher

For Élise Provencher, agency – particularly the agency of her works – is an essential notion. This means that the objects she makes have a power that goes beyond the everyday and the habitual reality: they form a bridge between what we understand and what is beyond our understanding. In this sense, they encourage introspection, leading us to reflect on the problems that concern us, both individually and collectively, and contribute to a form of transcendence. She has drawn lessons from her studies of the “primitive arts,” including from the cultures of the Maya and Indigenous peoples.

The expressionistic figures that Élise models take incongruous poses. Drawn to the grotesque and to horror films, she distorts forms to provoke emotion, link strength and vulnerability, and incite discomfort. Her goal during her residency was to explore the scenography and contextualization of her objects. She seeks to move toward narrative – to bring works together so that they begin a dialogue between themselves and the person looking at them. Wood, clay, plaster, and Styrofoam are her favourite materials.

The cabourons (hillocks) of Kamouraska inspired Élise to create rock and hill shapes, which she worked in two dimensions to create a background for sculptures. The transition from two to three dimensions is of particular interest to her. During the open studio days, her creative process was easily deciphered: images taken from books and magazines were pinned to the wall, chosen for the poses that they illustrated and reworked to accentuate them. One could easily match them against the sculptures already produced and see the transformations.

The contextualization of the sculpture has a goal: theatricality, in which plays on scale and perspective strengthen the narrative, similar to strategies used in painted genre scenes. Finally, we sense that Élise draws on mythologies to create her own, both based on and transcending her reality.


I use clay to shape figures that interest me for their power to embody. The material vocabulary is expressionistic, raw but soft, imbued with an ambiguity that represents both the pleasures (humour, eroticism) and the difficulties (doubt, fear) that go with being human. I explore the transformative potential of materials and the agency of objects. Through stories, my objects raise new narrative possibilities to forge individual and social identities. In this sense, the agency of the object is situated in an aesthetic of shifting between genders and symbols, enabling me to play with the usual frameworks (of representation and narrative) and binary frontiers (notably of morality and power struggles) and to hope to see beyond them. This play on the limitations of the shaped and the unshaped, the known and the unknown, the familiar and the foreign, is what drives my approach. I live and work in Montréal.