Karoline Lebrun: Tresse

Last Thursday, March 27th, Montreal-based Karoline Lebrun’s solo exhibition Tresse opened at Galerie LOCK. Showcasing the artist’s recent drawings, photographs and small-scale sculptures, Tresse is an inventory of series focused on hair as material, subject and memento. Karoline and I exchanged a few emails edited and condensed in the interview below, which touches on her practice at large as well as specific pieces and themes to look for in the show, which closes today, Saturday, April 5th.

Interview by  Florence Vallières
Photos by  Kevin Leung-Lo for Galerie LOCK




As a multidisciplinary artist, do you feel that there is one grounding medium, like drawing, or photography, that you always start with, or come back to?

Drawing is the foundation of my practice. Everything else stems from that.

That’s interesting because I’ve known you primarily as a photographer. Your photo work has included a range of performative portraits and self-portraits as well as modified found photographs. What’s next for you in terms of photo?

Photography is a medium I mostly use for process. And also scanning. I love scanning everything. I scan my drawings, I scan my art objects, I’ve been scanning tons of hair. Photography and scanning are a way of seeing the work through a different medium. After working so intricately on something for an extended period of time, I find it necessary to put a space between myself and the work. That’s what photography and scanning do.

You tend to work in series; in your opinion, what’s the advantage of working in series versus discrete projects?

I like repetition, it helps ground me and the work.





A lot of the humor in Tresse comes from minute transgressions — the braids slither off the paper onto the matte, the wall, locks of hair escape the glass panes… Surfaces that aren’t meant to be touched, let alone to be hairy, are blooming unexpectedly. What does it mean for you, to work on or around limits?

I like to use the idea of escape or expansion—something bigger in size or personality than its physical surroundings, i.e. like a turtle that’s outgrown its tank. The objects stem from me, from my mind, and as the work develops they become physically larger and grander than my person. For instance, the small braids evolving into the mural.

You’ve mentioned Victorian mourning jewelry and hair keepsakes as an influence or a starting point for some of the series in Tresse. How did that inform the process of encasing your hair in microscope slides? Is it meant to be read as a record of time?

Cutting off my own hair for these pieces felt more like a physical sacrifice; I was literally putting myself into the work without the work necessarily being about me. I began to dye my hair blonde at the tips and dark at the top to create a gradient effect once the slides are seen lined up beside each other. If you look closely, you can find two slides with pink braids as well.

My fascination with mourning jewelry began a couple of years ago when I first saw the collection belonging to a friend in Toronto whose been searching for these objects for the better part of five years. I then sought them out and became fascinated with this idea of holding a physical part of a loved one, on your person, after they have passed.

As much as mourning jewelry is an interest of mine, what mostly inspired these pieces was the history of soldiers going off to war, taking with them locks of their family members’ hair as keepsakes. Also, the woman staying behind would let a single lock of her hair grow endlessly until her husband returned. This theme of memory is something I carried into the series.



Do you know the work of Hrafnhildur Arnardottir, aka Shoplifter? Is her work relevant in terms of your practice?

I’ve never really thought about her before in terms of influence, though Bjork’s album cover for Medúlla was always very attractive to me. The masks I made for my vernissage performance are in line with her work, where the masks are like a wall of hair covering our faces while we perform. Besides Shoplifter, Winnie Truong, and Rebecca Drolen are other artists that I admire who use hair as a theme.