Interviewed by Lucy A.Edwards on behalf of The Moniker Foundation
If you don't know by now, every month Moniker releases a timed-release print in collaboration with one of our star artists - with 15% of the proceeds being donated to a charity of the artist's choice. This month, we have Marie-Claude Marquis - an artist whose multi-disciplinary practice touches upon both graphic design and visual arts. She is inspired by nostalgia, pop culture, everyday life and her own emotions, which she expresses with humour, a feminine touch and a colourful sensitivity.
As the above blurb states, you often add a "feminine" touch to your work, which Moniker (being an all female-led team) can really appreciate and relate to - which of your works do you think channels this most strongly?
Although I think I could name several, my first thought would be the “Big Cl*t Energy” plate. The play on words with the expression sounds powerfully right, particularly in the art world where women are dramatically under-represented. It's also a very "current mood" if I look at the crazy amount of amazing and strong women around me right now.
Your artworks are known for their witty, comical and often assertive typographic language - where do you source the phrases that appear on your works from and how do you choose which plate goes with which phrase? I have a phrase book that I started around 7 years ago. I write down my thoughts, things I hear randomly in the street, etc. I think I’m close to 800 quotes now. It's funny when I look back at all of them, because it's really a chronological reflection of different stages and moods of my life. I also get inspired by the images on the vintage items I find as I am always looking for the quote that gives a total second meaning to the graphic on the piece, regardless of the subject.
Speaking of the phrases - which is your favourite one you've produced and why?
Hmmmmm, it is very hard to choose only one because when creating it, it really feels cathartic and on point with where I am at. But, like I said earlier, I definitively prefer the plates with images on them because it reinforces the message I'm trying to portray. So, to answer your question, I would say the “Sausage Party” plate (which features portraits of 35 USA presidents. The reason: this plate was truly an amazing find and I think it is time a woman gets elected President over there - it would definitively be less of a sh*t show.
"My work isn't intended to disrespect and it is truly the last thing I would want. Daring, sassy or bold would be closer to what I aim for... my work is more about saying out loud what a lot of people feel - externalising feelings or contradictions that are difficult to understand in ourselves. Often with humour and, indeed, not very delicately. "
Marie-Claude Marquis on the message behind her artworks, 2022
Reading up on internet biographies of you, all of them mention nostalgia as one of your main influences, which really resonated with me (and, I imagine, a large part of your demographic) - tell us a bit more about this topic of influence? Are there any stories or memories that you have in particular that have influenced your artworks?
Yes nostalgia is indeed very present in my practice, but it has changed a bit with time. I think for a while, a lot of my wordings were quotes or bits of songs and movies from when I was a kid or a teenager. But it has now mostly evolved into thoughts on how I, and the people I surround myself with, feel about what's happening around us and where we are in life. Now the nostalgic part is mainly brought by the object itself, since 90% of my work is made with second-hand and vintage objects.
INNER ROMANCE - Solo exhibition - Harman Projects Gallery - New-York, 2022
Working with old and nostalgic objects has always inspired me a lot. I truly believe that we cannot base happiness on things we buy - because once we have it, we'll want something else, and it never ends. Don't get me wrong, buying stuff is fun and I like to be comfortable, I'm ecstatic when I find an amazing $8 dress in my thrift hunts, and I don't preach a minimalist lifestyle, though I really admire people who are able to achieve that. I just really think that who you choose to spend your time with is most important to you - they are what matters. The things you experience, the people you meet, the souvenirs you create; these are what’s good for your spirit. So working mainly with second-hand objects helps me to feel like I am not entirely giving in to the consumer cycle. This message is really important to me. So, without being admonitory, I absolutely want my viewers to take away the value of re-using and buying second-hand. Old objects are beautiful, they have a soul and a story.
I also read that a few critics have described your work as "irreverent", which I thought was a tad harsh and maybe a misunderstanding on their part of what your work is really about - what are you thoughts on this?
To be honest, I've never really looked at the exact definition of irreverent! Ha! Now that I know, I think that you're right, it is a bit rough. I don't think that my work falls into the disrespectful and it is truly the last thing I would want. Daring, sassy or bold would be closer to what I aim for. Saying that, my first language is French, so if somebody out there has a more accurate word to describe it, they are welcome to let me know! I think my work is more about saying out loud what a lot of people feel. Even externalising feelings or contradictions that are difficult to understand in ourselves. Often with humour and, indeed, not very delicately.
The choice for the Moniker Edition Print reads "I'm not too much, you just suck" - which made instantly made me smile! People are very complicated beings, but that's not an excuse to make another feel like it isn't ok to be themselves, whether they find them "too much" or not - do you agree?
Give us a little background information on this phrase and what do you hope it instills in people who behold it?
I think sometimes people can make us feel "too much" so we try to make ourselves smaller and it makes us feel rubbish. Personally, it's the dating world that inspired this quote (but I think it also resonates with lots of people in relation to their families and society in general). This world where we don't want to be too intense too quickly, don't want to text too much, don't want to answer too quickly, don't want to look too interested to not scare the person, etc. This just messes with the mind! In the end, we want to be surrounded by people who are into the real us, not the idea they make up of us in their head. So be too much, feel the feels and be your unapologetic self (with respect for others, of course).
The charity that will receive 15% of the proceeds from the print sales is Famille Nouvelle - tell us why you chose this charity specifically and how it ties in with the narrative of the artwork
Ever since my early work in painting, I’ve tried to focus on the honesty of what we all live, without realising it, so we feel less alone. Vulnerability, being honest with our emotions, putting our feelings into words and being our unapologetic self felt very coherent with the quote “I'm not too much, you just suck”. To not be afraid of communicating and aiming for a better mental health is very important to me, so this is why I chose Famille Nouvelle as my charity. Famille Nouvelle is a family and marriage support centre that offers therapy, psychotherapy, counselling and psychosocial support to low-income individuals, couples and families in Montreal, my beloved city. Therapy is often expensive, so I would be happy to help make this service accessible to more people who otherwise would not have the money for it.
Talk us through your artistic process - is the typography hand-painted or stencilled? How on earth do you source so many vintage plates? That alone is impressive!
I'm constantly on the look-out for new china plates and I build my inventory on a daily basis. Whenever I see a nice plate or needle-point in a thrift store I will definitely buy it, even if I don’t know when I’ll use it. I then brainstorm my ideas depending on the theme of the show or the piece itself. For the quotes, I sometimes have a flash the second I see a plate, but I am more inclined to think about it once seated at the studio and in "production mode". Most of the time, I work by intensive blitz where I completely immerse myself into production - I'm not the type to create a little bit every day all year long. After that, the typography is hand-painted with oil and enamel paint over guidelines I make with graphite. Since childhood, thrift shopping and vintage hunting have always been in my life so this bit of the process is truly one of my favourite parts! I love the search and the rush felt when I find a beautiful piece. I very rarely buy my pieces online because it really takes away all the fun for me.
I specifically remember marvelling over your "wall of works" back in 2019 at the last edition of the Moniker Art Fair in West London - our tenth birthday celebration, no less! That was a real milestone for the fair and it made me think of asking what milestones you've reached in your career as an artist? Moments you're proud of, or goals you set yourself that you have now achieved?
I think one of my early milestones was having my first solo show in 2016 which led to an exhibition with Juxtapoz Magazine a few years later. This got my work noticed by larger galleries outside of Canada and led to my first solo show in the United States in 2020. Now I'm happy to have my exhibitions calendar booked for a while in Canada, United States and Europe. I'm also pretty proud that in the past months, I have been featured in Vogue magazine and made a bunch of custom pieces for Madonna. So yeah, I feel very lucky but at the same time I work really hard!
Tell us a little about your personal favourite artists - hit us with your top two artists of the modern day and why their your favourites:
A long time favourite of mine is Johan Deckmann who is mostly known for creating titles on book covers. He always makes you think with his clever reflections on human behaviour, which are often sad but always true. I'm also a big fan of Elliott Routledge. His multi-disciplinary work of public art, sculpture and painting is graphic, playful and bold. I also love Lino Lago a lot - both of us are interested in the contrast between classic imageries and bold modern interventions, so I feel that we speak the same language but in a totally different outcome. I'm super happy to have a duo show with him next December at Robertson Ares Gallery.
We've always known your "canvas" of choice to be ceramic but now you've turned your hand to embroidery - have you always been able to embroider? Or did you learn it specifically for this newer body of work? The child in me, who loves nostalgia, is secretly hoping your Grandmother taught you as a child and that's where you learnt it, but I have a sneaky suspicion that may be me getting a little too carried away!
Hahahaha! I wish! But I only started to work with needle-point 6 years ago. Like with the plates, I use vintage found pieces as my starting point that I then take over with words. The first time I created an embroidery piece for an exhibition, I embroidered a quote onto the needle-point by hand. It had nine letters total and it took me 12 hours for a result that, honestly, looked pretty bad. So now, I design the piece, make the plan, manage the production but it is a machine that embroiders the words. I enjoy using technology to combine more classical techniques to optimise production and time.
We've lightly touched on the subject of NFTs together earlier this year, but with the launch of the Moniker Marketplace fast approaching I thought I'd ask if you'd furthered your understanding at all and/or had any thoughts on this new path that seems to be taking over the art world?
Some of the galleries I work with are very into NTFs and others totally hate the concept, but I have unfortunately not taken the time to inform myself fully on the topic. So I don't feel like I can go any further on the subject. But between 2 shows and 2-3 product launches in my merch line Merci Bonsoir (www.mercibonsoir.com), I will do my best to understand this world a bit more!
Click here to purchase the MC Marquis Moniker Print Edition - signed and numbered by the artist - and contribute to the charity donation to Famille Nouvelle to support people on low-incomes with their mental health.
Follow MC on Instagram and find more about her via her website: