Art & Culture

An Interview with Artist Gab Bois: Wordplay and Unfamiliar Familiarity

The 24-year-old Canadian Gab Bois turned Social Media into her atelier. In an exclusive interview with L’Officiel Austria, the artist speaks about the role of her father in her life, her creative process and what social media means for artists today.
Reading time 8 minutes
Photos: Gab Bois (left and right), Pegah Farahmand (centre)

How do you call a bra made out of two orange peels? Exactly, “Vitamin C-Cup”. Gab Bois is wowing her over 500k followers on Instagram with pictures cleverly captioned in a way that effortlessly plays with words and phrases. Magazines like InStyle and The Face as well as OFF-White creative director Virgil Abloh and German fashion influencer Caro Daur are all part of her fan following. 

Born and raised in Montréal, the 24-year-old artist is still living in the city in the East of Canada. On her Instagram account @gabbois she posts images that defamiliarise common everyday objects by removing them from their natural environment and putting them in a new context. That way, red flowers turn into a birthday cake and green vegetables take on the role of a skincare routine set. Needless to say, every photo has a catchy caption – from a colourful emoji mix to clever wordplay. 

Here you can read all about how passion and love for art found their way into her live, what creative process it takes to create her pictures, and how young artists use social media today in this exclusive interview with Gab Bois.

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Photos: Gab Bois

Lisa Zirngast: When did you decide that you wanted to do art? 

Gab Bois: I always knew I'd be doing something creative, but I didn't think it would turn into a career. I've always had crafty hobbies. I loved drawing as a child and doing arts and crafts in the yard. As a teenager, I'd spend hours cutting up tiny photos from magazines, turning them into a mosaic on my bedroom wall or painting an old dresser that my parents let me customize. I feel like what I do now is an extension of childhood passions.

 

Lisa Zirngast: Is creativity something that runs in your family?

Gab Bois: My dad has always had a passion for oil painting. I grew up watching him paint. Sometimes he would set up a small easel next to his, and I'd paint coffee beans, strawberries, or pretty leaves we picked up on a walk. The smell of solvents and autumn air always brings me back to my parent's basement, where we'd spend afternoons listening to classical music. I'd think to myself how someday I'd like to be able to paint as well as my dad. He's taught me creative passion and discipline just by letting me watch him work, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

 

Lisa Zirngast: What is your process like when creating? Where do you draw inspiration from, and how long, on average, does it take you to complete one piece?

Gab Bois: It depends on the piece, but it always starts with the idea that I try to keep at the centre of the creative process. The idea can come at any time, anywhere. Sometimes it comes on its own, unannounced, but sometimes I have to sit myself down and brainstorm. I then move into production, sourcing all the elements needed for the picture and shooting the idea. This step varies each time. Sometimes I have to put together intricate pieces, like the jumper made of rainbow candy or place hundreds of dandelions on the grass to make them look like bedsheets. The time it takes doesn't matter much to me. I get very focused while working, and time just flies by. Before I know it, I've spent hours hunched over, but I get a finished image in return and a sore neck as a bonus.

Lisa Zirngast: Are you working on your own or do you have a little team?

Gab Bois: For the stills, I usually work on my own from start to finish. I enjoy being hands-on with every part of the process: conceptualization, production, post-production, even modelling. I do, however, have a wonderful team for when I do video and an amazing manager.

    

Lisa Zirngast: You seem to play with words and phrases a lot. You take a widely common or catchy phrase and quite literally turn it into art. How did that approach come about? 

Gab Bois: Captions took on the role of titles very early on for me. I always tried to find a word or a phrase that would compliment the work and, if possible, even elevate it. It became a challenge I gave myself to come up with the best title, something that people couldn't unsee once they read it. Sometimes people in the comments come up with even better ideas, which I love. 

 

Lisa Zirngast: Who is the first person you tend to show a newly finished art piece to?

Gab Bois: My boyfriend or close friends, often in the form of a text, accompanied by some classic “Which one of these should I post?” or “What's wrong with this picture? Something seems off, but I can't put my finger on it.”

 

Lisa Zirngast: On Instagram, your posts get a lot of engagement by receiving likes and being reposted on stories. Why do you think your art resonates so much with people?

Gab Bois: I got really lucky because when I started posting on Instagram in 2016. The timeline was still chronological, and the algorithm didn't feel as aggressive as it seems to be today. Sponsored content wasn't a thing back then. It made it so much easier to grow organically by getting on the Explore page, and all of your followers could see your posts. I miss that a lot about the platform. As far as people relating to the work I make, using household items and objects a lot of people see daily helps a lot. Mixing that with humour makes it easy content to consume at a fast pace, which works for a platform like Instagram.

 

Lisa Zirngast: What is the importance of social media in the art world today?

Gab Bois: I feel pretty removed from the traditional art world, so I don't think I'm qualified to answer that. From a personal experience, though, social media has played a significant role in my practice and career. It has been the absolute best tool for exposure. It has connected me with so many people from different creative fields that I probably never would've met otherwise. While it does come with its own load of challenges, in my experience, the pros have definitely out-weighted the cons.

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Photos: Gab Bois

Lisa Zirngast: You have done some work for SSENSE, Selfridges Food and Süddeutsche Zeitung in the past. How do you feel about collaborations like that? Will there be more in the future?

Gab Bois: It's always a pleasure to work with brands. I see it as a challenge to incorporate their message or products into my visual universe while ensuring that both parties complement each other. There will definitely be more in the future and many in the works as we speak. I like to balance personal and more commercial work; it allows me to develop different skillsets simultaneously.

 

Lisa Zirngast: You have already published a book with Anteism. Would you like to share how that came to be and a little bit about the book? 

Gab Bois: Yes, we published a book last fall after thinking about it and discussing the idea. The team at Anteism was amazing at making my vision come to life; I was really lucky to be able to work with them. I knew I wanted the book itself to reflect the duality between physical and digital that I like to play within my photos, and that's how I came up with the selfie display as the book cover. The book was made to serve as a physical archive of my work from the last four years. I wanted people who enjoyed my content online to have a beautiful object with the images inside, and that's basically how it came to be.

Lastly, some rapid fire kind of questions

Favourite artist?

I don't have a favourite artist, only favourite pieces by different artists.

Favourite piece out of your own collection?

A tiny sneaker planter made by amazing ceramist and friend Didi Rojas.

Current obsession?

Gelatine cake art videos on Youtube.

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Photos: Anteism

Inspired by the design of the Photo App on an Apple iPhone, Gab Bois’ book New Album - An Artist Book by Gab Bois is available online on the website of Anteism.

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