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Géraldine Petit-Gras Q & A with Géraldine Petit-Gras

Interview by Ren Tomovcik

Ceramic artist Géraldine Petit-Gras made her way to Ottawa seven years ago, and has eagerly added her creative forces to the capital's artistic mix.
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Born in Aix-en-Provence, France, Géraldine relocated to Ottawa in 2002.  Her road toward a career in the arts was a winding one: she first undertook a degree in Marketing Communications, but her passion for art continued to call to her, and she began taking painting classes as a way of expressing herself creatively. 

Before long, she'd enrolled at the Ottawa School of Art (OSA), throwing her passions into a three-year Fine Arts diploma and impressing her peers and instructors with her creative vision. 

At OSA, Géraldine began to work in ceramics and fell head over heels in love. We caught up with Géraldine to ask her about her latest work, her adventures as an art student, and her experiences in Canada's beautiful capital...
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Géraldine, how has coming to Canada, and coming to Ottawa, changed your perspective on your art?  How has the city inspired or guided you? Adjusting to a different culture and working environment gave me a lot to think about what I wanted to do with my life. By taking community art classes at night, I reconnected with my inner artist. When I decided to look into the many options offered in Ottawa to study art, I chose OSA for its hands-on approach and Fine Arts Diploma program.

What was your experience like at the Ottawa School of Art? I had a blast. I’ve never worked so hard in my whole life and I am glad I took that first step when I signed up for the diploma program. I also met great artists and friends, while finding my place in this world in the process. To sum it up, I learned a lot about myself, about the fundamentals of art making and what to expect in my career straight from practicing artists.


How has studying art changed your perspective on the world in general?  Do you think an artist looks at things differently?I learned to see the world around me. I think artists re-learn to see things with the eyes of the child they once were, in the sense that everything is new again, full of potential.  Artists also sharpen their senses to color and texture. As adults, they also channel intellectual and emotional qualities to communicate through their mediums. For me, an artist is a link in mankind’s history with a heightened awareness of the world around them and the means to express it.
  What drew you toward ceramics as your preferred art form?Although I went to study at OSA because of my inclination towards drawing and painting, I took ceramics and sculpture as selective classes to explore three-dimensional work. Reading and researching about contemporary ceramics made me realize the potential of the medium. I found myself fascinated by its capacity to allow any other forms of expression such drawing, painting, sculpting, printmaking…

Although you had a passion for art as a child, you ventured down some other career paths before finding your way back to art.  What would you say to other people in that situation?I made peace with whatever choices I made in the past as they brought me to Canada, where I met my husband and made me the person and the artist that I am now. It was my journey to follow.  At 18, I wasn’t ready to make a decision about a career path. Sure I loved to draw, but was told it was a good hobby, it wouldn’t bring money… like so many. So I let my parents guide me into whatever they thought would suit me best.

But money is not everything. Loving what you do is more important to me. What matters the most is to find oneself in life. I’m glad I did. The sooner the better of course, as learning new tricks is harder when getting older.

As a recent graduate, where do you see yourself going next with your art career?I am first of all looking for a studio to work in. I am on the waiting list at the Glebe Pottery Studio and might be getting opportunities at the Ottawa School of Art to use their studio as well. I am looking forward to teaching 3 sculpture classes at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre in the fall. I am also part of a group of ceramic sculptors called In Flux. We meet every month to discuss our work and venues to exhibit our work together in the near future.
 
Where in the city do you go to find inspiration?Anywhere. Galleries, libraries, bookstores, the river, the Gatineau park, etc. Anything can trigger a memory, an exciting idea, a question. I take it all in, take notes, photos and often let my brain work it all out overnight and wake up with ideas and solved problems in the morning. Like some of my professors would say, one never ceases to be an artist. It’s a 24/7 job!

How would you describe the Ottawa arts community?  To me, the arts community in Ottawa is very diverse, resourceful, active and supportive. As a graduating student, I found great opportunities to showcase my work with galleries such as IPO Gallery and Blink Gallery who graciously offered their venues to the Ottawa School of Art. In October, I will also have a group show in the newly opened Shenkman Arts Centre.

Which other artists are currently inspiring you locally?  What about globally?I would love to have the career of local ceramist artists like Paula Murray and Jim Thomson. As one of my mentors, Jim has taught me a lot about letting go and I am very grateful for that. I also would love to have Erin Robertson and Katie Argyle’s capacity to be so creative and to investigate their mediums with never-ending curiosity.

On a national note, I love the work of Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard and British-Columbia artist Laurie Rolland.  I keep myself up to date with what’s happening in the world of contemporary ceramic with a French magazine called La revue de la céramique et du verre.

Where do you see yourself living in the future?My husband and I are looking for a house in the west end of Ottawa. It is a great city to live in, enjoy the outdoors and raise a family. It is not the best place for an artistic career, like Montreal and Toronto would be, but I couldn’t live there.  I would love to one day live close to the ocean, as I am very inspired by it, but who knows what the future holds…

MORE FROM GÉRALDINE PETIT-GRAS

Pieces from Géraldine's graduate showcase will be on display at IPO Gallery until August 29th.  This fall, from October 22 to November 22,  Géraldine will be showing some new work in a group exhibition at Shenkman Arts Centre.  In the fall, she will be teaching sculpture classes at Nepean Creative Arts Centre.

To learn more about Géraldine, visit her website, GPG Studio.
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