Cybèle Young is a renowned artist and author living in Toronto and spending her days creating miniature worlds from fine Japanese papers. Her critically acclaimed work has been exhibited across the world, resides in major collections and in the private homes of collectors such as Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach, Christian Louboutin and George Soros. She has won over twenty grants and awards including a four-month Canada Council studio residency in Paris. Cybèle has both written and illustrated 8 picture books to date and won the Governor General’s Award for for her book “Ten Birds” in 2011. She works in a diverse range of mediums, but always at the root is a close connection to the hand, to paper and to the drawn line. “Some Changes Were Made”, her first New York solo exhibition, is opening on June 4th at Forum Gallery and will be representing 3 years of art production. Hit Read More and discover Cybèle’s tiny worlds!
Could you summarize your career and creative path?
Since graduating from sculpture and printmaking at the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1995, I have been showing my work in galleries around the world, such as New York, LA, Miami, London, Stockholm, Japan, Singapore, Korea and across Canada. Since my first solo show 15 years ago, I have mounted over 20 solo exhibitions, and have been included in over 30 group shows and numerous annual art fairs. I have won over 20 grants and awards including a four-month Canada Council studio residency in Paris.
My practice consists of making miniature sculptures from fine Japanese papers, some of which are embellished using etchings and other media. I create exact miniature replicas of real life objects and abstract shapes. Before the sculptures are sequestered to life under glass, I often animate their moving parts in stop motion film works, offering clues to their fictional history.
Engaging with abstract and familiar motifs, I juxtapose sculptures to create a sense of dialogue or play between them. I approach my work in series and components, ultimately building an ongoing inventory of personal experience and observation. I compile these in various arrangements to create communities that interact and form new relationships – much like the small seemingly insignificant moments in our everyday lives that come together to create unexpected outcomes. These manifest as miniature theatres – where shifts of scale and perception occur. Despite the absence of the human form there is an implied presence, where the viewer can project themselves into another world.
The way a painter takes to canvas, paints and a brush, paper is my medium of choice. More recently I’ve added writing and illustrating books to my daily list of things to do, with 9 published titles to date. The process is deeply intertwined with my fine art practice, but results in a format where I can express myself in a different way and to a new audience.
Who are the designers / artists who inspired your work?
Alexander Calder, Bruno Munari, Maria Sybilla Merian, Tove Jansson, Jean Tinguely, Maira Kalman, to name just a few.
How does the time spent in the making of your works relate to the use of an ephemeral medium like paper? Is the contrast between tenuity and durability something you wanted to stress in the first place?
The world is full of beautiful paradoxes. Many things are tenuous in the life of an artist. Weirdly I derive strength from this.
Could you please tell us about your upcoming book “Some things I’ve lost”? Are there any funny stories or anecdotes about its making that you’d like to share with us?
“Some Things I’ve Lost” invites readers to consider the inevitability of change and the power of the imagination. A catalogue of misplaced household objects undergo a process of growth and change, and are fantastically transformed. Each item, is shown first in its original form and then, through a series of gatefold spreads, is shown in the process of transforming into a mysterious sea creature. At the very end of the book, we see these transformed objects in their new, watery habitat, a conclusion which can leave readers reflecting on the distance they — like the lost objects themselves — have travelled. When I was little I had a tiny mermaid doll. My brother threw it across the room and it fell through a hole in the floor never to be seen again. I had many a lot of toys as a kid that I loved and played with for many years. Why is it that the mermaid, something I owned for less than a few days, still holds the biggest spot in my memory and imagination to this day?
What’s the latest project you have been working on?
I’m in the early stages of a longer term work: a drama performance, that takes place within a series of miniature paper dioramas, in the form of a deck of cards, disguised as a how-to manual. I hope this makes sense!
Looks like creating your sculptures takes you a lot of time, do you ever run out of patience? How do you cope with that?
Working on my art is one of the few things I have patience for. It’s making space for it that is the challenge.
Your works span through different media, is there a medium / technique that you haven’t tried yet that you’d like to experiment? Why?
I’m going to be experimenting with photography and film techniques where I can further shift perceptions of scale by introducing my miniature sculpture to the “real” world. But every day for 20 years I’ve said I’m going to start painting. I crave the mess and immediacy of the medium (which means I’ll probably never do it…).
What is the studio you work in like? Could you describe its neighborhood?
The studio is located in downtown Toronto. It’s idyllic: heritage building, laughing kids playing in the park, spring flowers, blooming trees, in a safe neighbourhood — which has served me well as my kids have grown up. That being said, I’m heading into a phase where I’ll be working on exciting new collaborative ventures and in residencies in a variety of other locations.
Some plans are to create and film self-destructing sculpture performances in miniature — inspired by Jean Tinguely’s “Homage to New York” and Fischli and Weiss’s “The Way Things Go”. And I have enough book projects in the works to carry me through several lifetimes. Hopefully some will see the light of day in forms not yet invented.
Who is the woman you’d like to see featured/ interviewed here?
Isabella Rossellini, her “Green Porno” work has been game-changing for me. I won’t get this perfectly accurate — but when I saw her in Toronto, she spoke about the time when someone told her that she was “ageing gracefully”. She thought “Oh no! That would be the most boring way to spend the rest of my years” — so she went back to school to study her life long passion of zoology, and embarked on this extraordinary creative venture.
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