Gagnon’s visual language gained much of its syntax through working with plywood; the themes and techniques that are explored are diverse. Plywood can exemplify dualism of identity: a complex, industrially-produced material layered with ‘content’ from its natural, organic source. No two panels are alike. Each stratification conceals an intriguing vocabulary of knots, grains, textures, hues, growth rings, organic networks of fine lines and whirls and manufacturing defects within an artificial end product. Restoring submerged values to plywood's diminished practical identity through re-layering redirects its purpose to that of a kind of decoy: an uncanny reminder of an almost forgotten, fuller world and our place within it.
In this new series of wood bas-reliefs, Gagnon uses fire as a creative tool. Her process is physical and forceful, yet paradoxically the resulting abstract and complex works are seductive, refined, and transcend the process. Alchemy is put into play and the elemental is brought to the forefront. The charred wood surface, with accents of gold and bronze leaf, stand starkly against tinted and exotic veneers mounted into custom-made plywood.
Gagnon sees in this unique material an unfamiliar terrain to be discovered and annotated, much as an explorer leaves a cartographic record of points of departure and changes of direction. By employing tools and techniques devised for unfolding, layering, and de-layering to unearth imagery from the material at hand, the resulting pieces allude to worlds of dissonant tension and balance, composed of voids as well as signs, of emptiness aside human presence, and of the natural with the artificial. She interweaves her artistic vision with those intrinsic to the material, adding layers of meaning and complexity. One travels afar in these carved realms. Exploring and touching raw territories. They become worlds within worlds which converge and collide, to create a new Pangaea.
The title “Midwinter Thaw” quotes the poetry of Canadian writer Lenore Alexandra Pratt. An affinity exists between both women’s work as they explore the threshold of the natural world. Yechel Gagnon was invited by Ronald P. Frye Book to publish one of her works on the cover of this volume of the Chapbook series. The dialogues created between the poetry of Pratt and the visual work of Gagnon echoes a rawness and elegance existing in their creative works.
Yechel Gagnon completed a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts from Concordia University after receiving an AOCAD with Honours in Drawing and Painting from the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her work has received reviews in the Globe & Mail, Canadian Art, Vie des Arts, Espace magazine and Circa International magazine. Gagnon’s work is widely collected and is part of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Osler Hoskins & Harcourt collection, Le Centre-d’art de Baie-St-Paul, Bishop's University, University of Montreal, and the Gotland Museum of Fine Arts in Sweden, to name a few.