Martine Frossard on Feminism, Identity and the Magical Art of Animation

Conker caught up with award winning multi-media artist Martine Frossard this month. In the interview, Martine chatted to us about her thoughts on feminism, identity and reinvention of the self, and how she manipulates geometric patterns to create “absurd worlds” in her artwork.

Cat van Maanen: Martine, your work is incredible, Conker really loves your manipulation of geometric shapes and the abstract style of you work. You have several styles of work including design and animation.What would you say is your preferred medium to work in?

Martine Frossard: I always liked to draw. For years, drawing allowed me to create surreal and mysterious universes. The characters in my drawings were always surrounded by smoke, suspended shapes. So I gradually wanted to give more movement in my drawings. Give life to those characters. When I became interested in animation video, a world opened! The first time you line up images and press PLAY, it automatically becomes addictive! For me it was just completely logical to go with animation video – I could not work without it. This was a perfect way to give life to my drawings.

CVM: If you had to choose, what would be you favourite piece that you have created to date? and what is it that you particularly cherish about this piece? what was the inspiration?

MF: As I work with several mediums, it’s hard for me to know what is my favourite piece. If I had to choose in each category, I would say:

Installation: “Big Bang / Big Crunch”. It was a very complex artwork: it has hidden messages, public interaction, and cohabits with an existing artwork… It was a great experience with my collaborator Isabelle Guichard.

‘Big Bang/ Big Crunch’, Installation. By Martine Frossard. Art Souterrain – Nuit Blanche de Montréal 2013.

Illustration: “Stuck”. I don’t know why but I have always felt very close to this drawing. It defines a kind paradox of externalisation / protection.

Illustration, 'Struck'.
‘Struck’, Illustration. By Martine Frossard.

Animation: “Thirty Masks”. It was my first movie, made during my maternity leave. I did not expect such a success for a first video.

Each of my projects tell small stories of identity quest: get lost to exist again.

CVM: In your animation piece ‘Somewhere in Between’ which you worked on with François Bonenfant, your combination between real life and drawing really creates an awesome effect. What inspired this piece, and could you tell us what you wanted to present to audiences with this?

MF: After giving life to my drawings, I wanted to try to mix videos and drawings. I’ve always been very inspired by the world of Bjork and also, the artworks of her ex husband Matthew Barnay. I wanted to create a video where drawings subtly enter in contact with the characters, as in dreams. I wanted to talk about paradoxical sleep. The moment of the night when our dreams are, it seems, the most creative, the most intense. A kind of awakening in sleep.

CVM: One of your other animated piece ‘Dimanche Soir’ takes on a style which could be considered like that of a graphic novel, and kind of reminded me a little of Japanese art styles of the early 1950s, such as Kasamatsu Shiro’s pieces, whilst also referencing some late 1980s pop culture in a-ha’s Take On Me video. Who or what do you believe to be your main inspiration as an artist?

MF: I am very interested in geometry and architecture: the way textures, colours and shapes try to work together. I’m also interested in the human body: faithfully reproduced portraits, light and shadow on faces or on hands… The mix between textures and body parts; The creation of absurd worlds. I think I am inspired by so many people. I could quote: Bjork, Matthew Barney, Sophie Calle, David Altmedj, Ryoji Ikeda, Shishi Yamazaki, Nigel Peake, Izumi Miyazaki, Marigold Santos, and many more…

CVM: The ambience of your videos is really hypnotic – the use of the sounds and imagery really draws you in! Do you create all the pieces that make up your videos, such as the music?

MF: Yes it is a complete artwork. I develop the sounds and the images at the same time. Music and sound plays a really important role in the universes that I want to create.

CVM: In most of your pieces you present women or the female body and sometimes, present graphic design prints onto some of these images of women. Would you say that you have a feminist drive in your work? Do you feel that the art world is arguably still very focused around the white middle class male ‘standard’?

MF: I think I unconsciously started to draw women, but who hide behind masks, so they lose their identity and their gender. Those characters are trying to reinvente themselves, to get rid of codes that define them. I think I am very concern about the difficulty for women to find their place, their identity; not only among men, but even among other women, it’s not easy. I work in a feminist art centre in media art (Studio XX), so I am hopeful about the place of women in this environment, which is still very masculine. Feminism is not just a style or a fashion, it’s a necessity.

CVM: You’ve been doing a lot of touring around different galleries with your work! Are you planning to be presenting your art anywhere soon?

MF: Yes, I’ve sent my last film in several international festivals. Also, I’ve started an artist residency in Montreal : I will work on a project mixing video , interactivity and animation.

More of Martine Frossard’s animated videos.

Martine Frossard 

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