La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse presents Dialogues, an exhibition by Sonia Reboul that uses jewelry and metal to explore traditional weaving techniques.
Sonia Reboul, 38, focuses her practice on “found materials”, little treasures she finds in everyday life, items that have been given to her, and even the way light reflects off an object. Since 2019, Reboul has been pursuing a degree in Visual Arts at Concordia University. It was while taking courses in textiles and weaving that she first got the idea for the project Dialogues.
“I had this idea of experimenting with jewelry, especially the used ones, which I found interesting from an ecological and ethical point of view because I really don’t like to buy material to create art,” she said. “And secondly, with this idea of giving a second life to something that has already existed and was worn by other people in different circumstances.”
Reboul lives in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. For the past 12 years, she has worked in communications and spent much of her free time drawing and experimenting with photography. For the past four years, she’s focused her time on more professional projects.
Creating Through Chains
Reboul started working on Dialogues at the beginning of the pandemic and took two years to complete the project. She began questioning human interaction and how we can interact with other people. She described weaving the horizontal and vertical chains as similar to creating a dialogue.
“When I was experimenting, I was finding that if you have sizes that are too different, the dialogue doesn’t work because there are holes and it doesn’t stay together,” she said. “If they are very similar, it doesn’t work either because there is no pattern and it’s not super interesting. It’s very flat.”
She explained that this made her think about the relationship between two people. Just because two people resemble one another doesn’t guarantee they will get along. Meanwhile, differences might not be so different that they prevent two people from communicating effectively.
“It’s also very difficult to weave because it’s very slippery, she said. “But if you tighten it too much it breaks. So you also have to let go a little bit.”
Reboul further explained that she used second-hand jewelry because of the connection it creates between the former wearers. They could be from two different cultural or socio-economic backgrounds but be linked through the project.
Materials and Sustainability
Reboul doesn’t like working with material that she buys. She has a hard time even thinking about creating waste. She prefers to collect objects and material that other people don’t want and turn them into something different…a piece of art.
“I would have loved to have the project made out of material that was given to me by people who could also explain the relationship they had with the jewelry,” she said. “But it would not have been done in five years!”
Instead, Reboul partnered with Le Chaînon, a Montreal-based organization that helps women in difficult situations. Le Magazin du Chaînon sells clothing, furniture and accessories donated by the community and acts as the main source of financing for the organization.
When Reboul works on a project it becomes a ritual. First, she takes the jewelry, dries them and washes them carefully to avoid tarnishing the metal. She then dismantles all the accessories such as pendants, beads, and stones, leaving only the chain. Finally, she sorts the chains into similar sizes so she can begin weaving.
“It was interesting because…even though I didn’t know that person – it was also a time to think about the life that she has had”, Reboul said. “It is like an homage to the person.”
Weaving and Feminity
Reboul doesn’t consider herself a traditionally feminine person.
“The question of femininity is just very interesting because it’s also a question of what is femininity for me what is being a woman? What are the criteria of being feminine and not being feminine?” she said.
Reboul further explained that weaving is a practice that has been developed by women.
“When they were learning how to weave, they were doing very small patches, most of them were triangular, or square, and to test different material, different type of patterns,” she said.
Rehoul explained that this is only the first part of her project. In the future, she’d like to further explore light, motion and further incorporate the stories of the people who previously wore the jewelry.
Dialogues will be visible at La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse from December 17, 2021 to January 23, 2022.
Olivia is a Montreal-based journalist who loves writing about arts, culture and identity. Fueled by espresso, you’ll most likely find her scribbling a story idea in her notebook or detangling her hair.