Nikki Gour finds meaning in the masses
Artist of the Week
By Kristjanna Grimmelt, R-G Staff

Patrons at nearby tables couldn’t help but stare as Nikki Gour pulled one of her most popular sculptures from a shopping bag. Feed me, a welded bustier of forks, knives, spoons, and a ribbon of pink lace fastened at the back, warrants the attention.

“I like to take functional, manufactured objects and create large works of art out of them,” explains Gour.

A BFA grad from Calgary’s Alberta College of Art and Design, she has worked with everything from push-pins to bouncy balls to puzzle pieces. Feed Me, originally a school project, bears strong social critique.

“I was playing with utensils I bought in a thrift store. I thought about function in relations to our bodies, and about ideas of women.”

Gour feels everyone has emotional ties to manufactured items.

“I would like for people to see my work based on the materials being used in relation to their life experience with that material, and then create their own meaning.” Though Gour began with plaster and other traditional media, she quickly discovered her preference.

As she puts it: “found objects.”

Though her pieces often bear strong personal and cultural messages, Gour is not fixed on intent.

“I don’t question what I do. It becomes what it becomes.”

Dance Dance Revolution took such an approach, with hundreds of bouncy balls packed tight into a cage over top a platform. With added weight, the balls vibrate in place.

“It’s like identity. Taking a material, something so free, and controlling it.”

Repetition is fundamental to Gour’s work.

To date, she has covered the following items in tacks: a teddy bear, a Five-Alive can, and a plaster male torso. They represent a play on human reaction.

“It’s taking something you see as comfortable. [People think] Oh, I can hug this, eat this ... and it becomes uncomfortable.”

Though her subject matter is pre-made, Gour’s pieces are personal and honest.

An early undergraduate piece takes plaster molds of her torso to stages: halved and altered; covered in nails and nylon; and broken and rearranged.

“I think this is something a lot of people have gone through.You torture yourself, you tear yourself apart, and then you try to piece yourself back together.”

She’s also intrigued by the torso.

“I was flipping through my sketch book the other day, and I realized all the heads were cut off. I love working with the figure, because you’re not going to find an identical one.”

A Peace River native, Gour appreciates her family and friends’ openness towards her ideas. Gour worked in Calgary’s financial industry before calling dad to say she was “ready for art school”.

Art school complete, she works a day job as a landscape artist.

“It pays the bills,” she shrugged - though admitted she loves the outdoors and, on one occasion, the chance to morph hedges into Henry Moore sculptures.

Gour also takes inspiration from artists Tom Friedman (Massachusetts; claims to use “drugstore items”), Tara Donavan (New York City; known for pieces involving hot glue and Styrofoam cups) and Tony Cragg (British; works with found objects).

A NYC lover herself - she says doing a show there would allow her to wear more “pointy-toed shoes”- Gour feels the Calgary art scene is “small but growing.”

She’s critical of public opinion that sees art as superfluous.

“A lot of people see buying art as a want more than a need.

“When I see a piece, it really does something to me. It draws out your emotions - and it’s important to have around.”

Though Gour’s pieces focus on North American culture, she loves to travel and sees herself working with different media in another place.

“If I could have, I would have brought home boxes of coral,” she said of a trip through South Asia.

“They don’t use as many manufactured products there...their society is very different from ours. They have a different appreciation for life that’s not so materialistic.”

She’s drawn to Buddhist philosophy, sculpture, and people.

In the future, Gour hopes to be equally self-sufficient.

“I see myself in my studio making art.”

For now, she’ll continue to nurture the Calgary scene, searching out studio space for herself and working on the development of her practice.

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