Samuel Roy-Bois. Life is a Tool Like Any Other

Curatorial : Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, Curator of Contemporary Art, and Charo Neville, Curator, Kamloops Art Gallery

From June 18 2022 to September 5 2022

About —

Québec artist Samuel Roy-Bois, who has lived in British Columbia for the past fifteen years, presents select projects from two independent bodies of work. First exhibited at the Kamloops Art Gallery in 2019, the nine photographs produced in 2016 during a residency in Germany each capture the brief moment where everyday objects hang in perfect balance to create improbable sculptures. The images prove that these assemblages, as ephemeral as they are and almost performance-like in their execution, did in fact occur. Strangely, they appear more “real” and irrefutable than the reality they manifest. Roy-Bois’ most recent sculptures—either hand-carved or formed by connecting objects he finds in his studio or in his immediate environment—elevate otherwise banal materials to the status of artworks capable of generating an esthetic experience.

Usage is what differentiates an everyday object or a design object from a work of art, which is typically conceived as a sensorial experience rather than one that fulfills a specific function. Roy-Bois complicates these distinctions by repurposing utilitarian objects as plinths, counterweights, or simply sculptural components, by positioning them in ways that negate their function. As such, he emphasizes how the context in which an object is found plays a decisive role in determining how we react to it. Is it only because they are presented in a museum that we don’t pick up the bucket on the floor, act surprised that the speaker remains silent, or that the overturned printer doesn’t print a document? Through his works, Roy-Bois underlines the power of institutions—namely museums but also, more broadly, every cultural, technological, or physical structure that surround us—to frame and even condition our behaviour.

Created in 2021 during the pandemic, these new sculptures, presented in Québec for the first time, emerged under very specific conditions. Their dimensions were determined by the available working space; their fabrication was based on Roy-Bois’ skill-set at the time and the non-specialized tools he had on hand, such as a chain-saw, clamps, or vises; and their materials came from his home renovations, his proximity to a sawmill, and the recycled remains of his previous artworks. They are the result of a series of happenstance and coincidence, of decisions made in a context of limited means and resources. They remind us of the notion of free choice—the power to act as one pleases, to follow one’s own will—because they exemplify that every action is dependent on the environment in which it occurs. If, theoretically, anything is possible, in reality, our ability to act is determined by many factors that are largely beyond our control: the environment we come from, our gender, our financial means, our aptitudes, or our physical abilities.

These works are like portraits that demonstrate, in material form, what was possible for Roy-Bois during those few months when he was open and attentive to the opportunities his environment had to offer. In some way, they remind us of the role photography plays in fixing the memory of a moment onto paper—a moment that is the sum of very precise circumstances that led to its occurrence. This back-and-forth between sculpture and photography, tangible and virtual reality, accomplishments or potentialities, have motivated Samuel Roy-Bois’ practice over the past few years. These inquires led directly to the works he presented in Kamloops and at Esker Foundation in Calgary. The new outcomes of these reflections form the core of his exhibition at the Musée d’art de Joliette.

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Kamloops Art Gallery, where Roy-Bois had a solo exhibition, Presences, in 2019. The project toured to Esker Foundation, Calgary, in 2020. The photographic series presented here was first shown in that earlier exhibition.

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Biography —

Born in Quebec City in 1973. Lives and works in Lake Country, British Columbia. Roy-Bois is Associate Professor of Art at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. His practice is concerned with the conceptual and material definition of space and the ways the built environment and manufactured things contribute to our understanding of the world. Through sculpture, site-specific installation, and photography, Roy-Bois examines relational networks of objects and their complex philosophical considerations: How do we define ourselves through the creation of structures? Is it possible to conceive of one’s existence outside any material linkage? We make things, but are things also making us? He has exhibited widely, most recently at the ESKER Foundation, Calgary, The Polygon Gallery, Vancouver, and Kamloops Art Gallery. He has also produced a number of public art works.

Image in the banner:

Samuel Roy-Bois, Life is a Tool Like Any Other. Views from the exhibition, Musée d’art de Joliette, 2022. Photo: Ysabelle Latendresse