Culture  Painting reality in dreamy shades

Isabelle Guimond explores our dream world in “Dream, Baby, Dream”

Nothing new ever really occurs in a dream. A dream is just a remixed, jacked-up version of things we remember from real life. These trivial fragments may never have been consciously recorded, but seep into the unconscious. If everything in a dream is actually unoriginal and really a compilation of reality, then to what can we credit the unnerving realities within dreams? The curiosity of the mind or the intrigue of the world? Isabelle Guimond tackles this question in her oil-and-aerosol collection, “Rêve, Baby, Rêve,” (“Dream, Baby, Dream”) currently showing at the Galerie de l’UQAM.

Her artwork teeters between the real and the dreamlike. All her subjects seem very real, very morose, and very mundane. One painting shows a collection of ordinary, dirty trash, and another is an elegant depiction of a teenager jumping over a fence. Yet Guimond’s hazy outlines and the colourful palette push the audience into a dreamlike trance. By titling such sombre pieces “Dream, Baby, Dream,” Guimond exhibits a sense of dark irony. That, or extremely low standards. After all, how can anyone aspire to such ordinary circumstances?

In retrospect, the dreams of many sculpted society into what it is today. The dreams of many resulted in ‘such ordinary circumstances.’ Titles in the collection such as It Girl and Mascarade seem glamorous individually but are inconsistent with the art itself. The It Girl is pretty with blonde hair and sparkly blue eyes, but is jeering in front of rebellious posters that tell her, in French, “You weren’t there to take the photo.” Her demeanour strips the ‘it’ right out of the ‘girl.’ Society’s value for this superficial perfection has ignored the true imperfection. What we see on the outside really is ‘it.’ But this surface impression might just be the most dreamlike aspect of our reality. Similarly, the sultry, romantic idea of masquerade in Guimond’s Mascarade is ridiculed with a plastic bag. Like many unfortunate animals in nature, a girl is being suffocated by a discarded plastic bag. In the background, a limp, dead plant surrounds her, seeming to also threaten her. In a world that dreams of the beauty of consumerism, we often forget the consequences of our desires. But Guimond seems to warn us they will eventually come back to haunt us, like the objects in the painting.

The dreaminess of Guimond’s art could represent a desperate hope that our ordinary lives are really just a dream and that reality is actually something much more fantastical. All we need to do is wake up. Loosely inspired by Montreal’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood, a low-income area, Guimond’s collection faces the harshness of reality.

 “[You dream] deep dreams in the face of extreme situations, soft delinquencies to make yourself feel alive.” – Isabelle Guimond

“[You dream] deep dreams in the face of extreme situations, soft delinquencies to make yourself feel alive,” said Guimond in French in an interview with The Daily.
The artist explained that in difficult situations, a person’s dreams shine the brightest. Like the subjects of the collection, the extremities and absurdities of reality have forced people to see things in a different light, a more colourful light. To think outside the box is to dream of escaping the box. These dreams are the first steps toward improving these ‘ordinary circumstances,’ the hope of creating a better reality.

Behind Guimond’s dark humour lies a lighter, more hopeful message. She addresses the entrapment of reality with a cynical tone. Even if our reality were just a dream, we still couldn’t escape it; however, the exhibit bears a resemblance to the song from which it takes its name. Though known best through Bruce Springsteen’s bleak cover, the original version of “Dream, Baby, Dream,” by the band Suicide is more hopeful. Inspired by this, Guimond also repeatedly emphasizes the need to dream, and to dream better. If society dreams hard and well enough, then the nightmare of reality might finish.