Situated on the border of the grotesque and the avant-garde, the work of ex-art student-turned-Internet sensation, Gab Bois, writhes with the pulse of our generation. Based in Montreal, her work has infiltrated the far corners of the world while creeping into the dark spaces of our mind as she creates a visual conversation that speaks in universal tongues. Using her own body as canvas and a $100 point and shoot camera, she’s less concerned with photographic technique and more so wants to change our ideas of beauty by challenging those standards directly.
Here we chat with Gab about her artistic roots, thoughts on the fashion industry and the space between art and its presentation.
COOLS: As an ex-art student and someone who has an artist for a father, can you talk about your experience at art school and the structures that were in place that both hindered and aided you to discover your own voice as an artist?
Gab Bois: Art school had significant effect on my practice. It gave me a technical base that I use every day. I didn’t produce much for myself during those years because I was always caught up in assignments and deadlines. It was only a year after I graduated that I started doing personal work again.
My dad never studied art, and is very free in his practice. He’s an extremely curious man who learned everything through the books he read and he probably has much better technique than me without ever getting a degree in art.
I don’t think there is a right path to follow when it comes to art. My two years of art school taught me a lot but there needs to be a certain kind of passion to continue further studies in that domain.
COOLS: You use your body as canvas, is there both a certain sense of disassociation and hyperawareness that comes into play when working with/on yourself? You’ve mentioned body fluidity in your feature with Sleek and I’m wondering what it’s taken for you to arrive at that point and what that feels like
Gab Bois: Using my body as a canvas can definitely have both these effects. I like to have body parts as my main subjects because it’s something that everyone can relate to. I think that it is one of the main ways I can get people to feel strong uneasiness and discomfort when looking at my work.
I think being comfortable in your own body is a long and personal process people confront at different times in their lives. I also like to use food and sex-related concepts in my work which are themes that are directly linked to body comfort in my book.
I think confidence is what got me so far today and a lot of that confidence came from dissociating from the pressure from beauty standards, and instead doing my own thing with a face, body and mind that is, not necessarily pleasing to everyone, but that is recognized for being its own.
COOLS: Since your work is so concept oriented and often seems to be making rather ironic commentaries on society and the fashion industry today, wondering how all of this is related to your own experiences and reactions if at all?
Gab Bois: I like to make fun of things in a way that is playful and not hurtful, that’s a very important part of my process. I don’t want my work to please everyone but I definitely don’t want to hurt anyone with it. I use to do freelance modeling a few years ago, and I currently work in retail so I get to see strange parts of that industry. I think we live in a very odd era where a lot of things don’t make much sense, and I try to take that confusion and turn it into different concepts and ideas that are more concrete.
COOLS: To what extent do you think art is about conversation?
Gab Bois: I think one’s art and the presentation of one’s art are two completely different things that are too often mistaken for the same thing. Conversation is a crucial part of art presentation. I think it’s also an important part of how an artist’s process evolves through the years, for better or for worse. In my experience, talking about my own art or just art in general is a positive thing. It has always pushed me to not only create more, but to create better content.
COOLS: Citing that you are aiming to confront traditional photography standards, what do you define those standards to be and what direction do you think we should be moving in?
Gab Bois: I say this considering the fact that I have almost no photography technique, and shoot with a $100 drugstore point-and-shoot camera. I don’t know much about ISO or depth of field, I just take pictures in my room in the dark in between episodes of my Netflix binge sessions. I get a lot of messages asking what camera I use, or what kind of flash and lighting I work with. However I don’t see how this relates to the content of my work.
I never like to talk about the future because I don’t like to create expectations. All I can say is that there are a lot of different things are cooking in my mind right now, and I’ll just be as surprised as you to see how they will come out.