Deborah Carruthers

  • A Ubiquity of Sparrows - No3
  • A Ubiquity of Sparrows- No1
  • Mortsaf for my Father - Balcony Rock
  • A Ubiquity of Sparrows - No2
  • Beautiful Ghosts - Detail - 2011

Born in Montreal, where I still live, I am multidisciplinary artist artist engaged in a conceptually-based practice. I have an insatiable curiosity about what makes us tick; the who, what, where, when, why and how.

My artistic practice has allowed me to pursue several topics of particular interest: genetics, the environment, and absence.

My interest in genetics was sparked very early on; I am an identical twin, and as one who was often a research subject, I wanted to have a better understanding of just what it was that was so compelling. Hence, a fascination with how our DNA makes us who we are, and how slight variations can have a massive impact on an organism or our understanding of it.
As for environment, growing up in Quebec I have been fortunate enough to have had life-long access to the Laurentian Mountains. Until early 2002, my family had a log house on a pristine lake in the Laurentians with no road access, no electricity, and no plumbing…heaven! My father had grown up on a farm in the Laurentians, and my family spent countless hours hiking in the area and on the lakes. My Dad taught me to fish and track, and to identify birds and animals, their nesting sites and habitats. More importantly, he taught me that we are all inexorably connected to our environment, and that the loss of any habitat can have a profound ripple effect.

Although I have been exploring the topic of how we are remembered and how we remember others for some time, my father’s death in 2012  has provided impetus for me to engage with this topic on a far more personal level.

Consulting areas of interest
My artistic practice has allowed me to pursue several topics of particular interest: genetics, the environment, absence, loss, and memorialization. Marcel Proust, in “À la recherche du temps perdu” (“In Search of Lost Time”) references the idea of involuntary memory through what has become known as the “episode of the madeleine” , in which the taste of a madeleine cake was enough to vividly recall visiting his aunt on Sundays, with all its attendant tastes , sounds, and smells.  My explorations are not unlike attempts to create involuntary memories. These memories may be influenced by our genetics and our environments, akin to Jacques Derrida’s contention that the past can continue to haunt the present, and are rich with regard to the senses. The use of a variety of media allows me to examine my topic of interest through engaging with touch, sight, sound, and occasionally taste. During my initial research, I often make extensive use of photography. Photography allows me to share exactly what caught my eye at a given moment: the textures, colour, and detail. Paintings let me process ideas over time, and are not meant to be mimetic. Rather, they are my lasting impressions. Sculpture allows me to create a memorial, literally expanding the idea into space. Finally, sound allows me to create a sense of place and geography.   This approach lends itself to the creation of series of works which individually present a facet of the idea under consideration, and collectively seek to provoke deliberation.


genetics, the environment, anthropocene, absence, loss,  memorialization
Links to video