Artist Chantal Labbe cannot pinpoint when she first started drawing but her need for creative expression was recognised early on by some insightful school teachers. “From the age of 10 or 11, I was allowed to draw throughout classes in school. They realised it helped me to focus and maintain my attention span. The deal was I could draw, as long as I was listening and drawing something related to what we were learning,” she recalls.
Originally from Canada, the 24-year-old came to Australia to pursue art studies and has just completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts with honours at Sydney College of the Arts, the visual arts faculty of the University of Sydney. “My degree is in ceramics, but I don’t like to classify myself. I really like to work with 3D objects but also with whatever is available and whatever works.”
Paintings also work for the artist and two such forays in this medium enliven the walls of her “local”, the Tripod Café in Darlington. Chantal says she welcomes the chance to exhibit her art in a way that is community friendly and accessible. “It’s all about raising awareness and how we can get art out into our streets and community,” she says.
Having chosen art as her profession, Chantal has been to her fair share of art galleries yet says she can understand how people might find the gallery experience elitist. “A few of my friends have come with me to exhibitions but by and large it seems to be artists checking out other artists,” she says. “Even for me, the first time I visited the [Museum of Contemporary Art] was uncomfortable. All those big names, it was really intimidating.”
In contrast, while having a coffee and a chat at Tripod Café patrons cannot help but feel comfortable taking in works that are a part of the surroundings, like Chantal’s REgurgitators. She says while there is no underlying theme to her work, this painting of two men in business suits with eerily distorted heads is representative of the influence of film, mass media and the demands of modern society on her work.
“I was influenced by scary movies at the time and the idea of getting dressed every day for a 9 to 5 working day. Art is recreating what you’re absorbing and a reflection of our culture. I’m an easily influenced person and whether it’s movies, reading fantasy, watching television or the news, I soak all that in,” she explains.
Excited to be embarking on her professional art career, Chantal says she is well aware of the difficulties inherent in her calling. “It’s a shame that in the modern Western world art as a profession doesn’t seem to be respected. I have to do art. If I don’t draw everyday it’s a problem. If I go a week without drawing, I feel bored and worthless.”
It helps enormously, however, to live in a community that abounds with artistic and creative types, she says. “We have lots of creative arts centres in the area and there are so many talented young artists around. Working as an artist it’s important to create opportunities for yourself but also to be part of a community where artists can connect and feel validated.”
Check out more of Chantal’s artworks at her online gallery here.