Nostalgia and cassettes
L’ASSOMPTION | DECEMBER 2021
For his « Pop Trash Art » project under the pseudonym Istaymute, visual artist Sébastien Larochelle drew on his childhood memories and nostalgia for the 80s and 90s. The notebooks on which he scribbled, the artists of the musical world, the cult films, the cassettes, and the vinyl are a source of inspiration for the artist.
Born in Hull in 1974, he grew up in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, where he studied visual arts in high school and CEGEP. He subsequently moved to Montreal for his bachelor’s degree in visual arts. While working in a record store, a gallery approached him to exhibit his works. This contact was able to take place through a retail customer.
» I hadn’t finished my baccalaureate yet. It was quick for me to enter this world. I wouldn’t have had the temperament running the galleries to introduce myself. I was too reserved and not sure enough of myself, so it was incredible luck. »
Sébastien Larochelle is represented by the Beauchamp Art Gallery in Montreal, Quebec, Baie-Saint-Paul, and Toronto. He has also been doing business with the Alpha Art Gallery in Ottawa for the past year.
The artist started his career by using the theme of horses and gestures. It notably gives him the chance to paint for Cavalia for several years. For him, « the horse is an inexhaustible subject, both in its form and in its symbolism. In this being, beauty and strength are intertwined. It makes this beast challenging to represent to anyone who would like to express these two meaningful characteristics. »
Three years ago, the artist felt the need to return to his first love, the portrait. » I was doing it for myself. I didn’t want to stop my other work, so that’s why I decided to put another name on it, Istaymute, to differentiate the two styles. I had already used this nickname over 15 years ago when I was doing portraits. »
This name is inspired by the record company « Mute Records, » which represented Depeche Mode, a flagship group of the 80s and 90s of which the artist is a fan. He even has a tattoo of it. « Music influences what I do a lot. I also thought about the meaning of » I stay mute « , which is that it’s not me speaking, but rather my art. »
The project slowly developed into something unique. The artist wanted his signature contrasting with the perfect and ideal image of Pop Art. » In this world, there are so many who do portraits. I’ve asked myself the question: how to make it to my sauce? When I do something, it takes a reason. The portrait alone was not enough. I thought about what I was doing as a teenager when I drew in my Canada notebooks at school. I decided to go into this niche, and the Hilroy Company quickly followed by giving me the right to use their logo. We even worked together to make the cover for a special edition notebook. »
In particular, he integrated elements of the culture of his youth, affecting both children and their parents. What message did he want to convey ? « What to draw is essential, and it can also be therapy. It doesn’t mean that all will be artists, there are several levels, and it’s okay, but it is essential to create in life. »
In his works, Sébastien Larochelle draws inspiration from many of the musical and cultural icons of the 80s and 90s. » I wouldn’t go and do things that don’t affect me or that I have nothing to say about it. I often return to the nostalgia of my adolescence. »
After exploring the possibilities, the artist discovered control in combining coloring pencils with spray paint. He « portrays these images rather as if they have lived through a shorter or longer period, abandoned to decay, oxidation, determination, and even wild graffiti. The wear and tear and transformation caused by the passage of time are themes that have always fascinated me, » he explains.
Even if he wants his work to go beyond Canadian borders, Sébastien Larochelle does not want to skip the steps. Finally, his new series particularly enchants him. Below the portrait is another work to which only the collector has access, thanks to a photograph. There he finds small drawings as well as leitmotif-type sentences.
» When people buy a work of art, they only get the result, but not the artist’s journey to get there. So that’s what I want to pay tribute to, the creative process behind the work. «