Zou Desbiens | Self-Organising Symmetries


From March 23 through May 14, 2021, the Espace VERRE Gallery presents Self-Organising Symmetries, an exhibition by Zou Desbiens. As a glass and light artist, her fascination for optical effects lead her to analogue photography. Confined to her dark room for several months, her most recent creations are poetic manifestations of caustics, ethereal moments captured on photosensitive paper. Guided by fascinating examples of self-organising phenomena, this new photogram series is brilliantly executed by means of symmetrical associations. The virtual opening will be held in the presence of the artist on the Zoom platform on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 pm.

Motivated by the desire to step away from the traditional aesthetics and characteristics praised in the glass arts, such as functionality, bold colours and technical prowess, Zou Desbiens has largely pared down her works. Instead, she chooses to focus on what she finds most fascinating about glass: its intimate relationship with light. At some point during her artistic researches, she discovered the concept of self-organising symmetries which are present in many patterns found in nature. For instance, the ripple patterns on a sea-shore are created by multiple contributory factors, including tides, currents, and winds, resulting in an abundance of patterns that are infinitely repetitive and variable. In Confucianism, these natural phenomena called Li are associated with a more poetic vision of nature, essentially issued from dynamic formations, giving the impression of being a frozen moment, through a process in where energy engages with form. Immediately drawn to this concept, Zou Desbiens explored the forces of Li by attempting to set on photographic paper the fascinating properties of glass: “My biggest challenge is to capture the exact moment when the line composition creates a perfect balance between the object and its perception.”

To create the diptychs featured in this exhibition, different glass objects were carefully chosen and placed on photosensitive paper. These objects created by the artist – by sculpting, casting and polishing glass – act as many lenses when submitted to a directional beam of light. Not only is each moment in the dark room unique, but every glass piece is different, with its own thermal and physical history, resulting in an abundance of patterns. For the artist, the process has become a way of illustrating the elusive nature of light, where glass shines long after its absence.


Zou Desbiens lives and works in Quebec City. Following her studies in Fine Craft – glass option (2013), she honed her glass art technical skills by working for several glass artists and studios such as Cassandre (Racine), Les Trois Corbeaux (Quebec) and FireBrand Glass Studio (Calgary). In 2017, she was a finalist for the François-Houdé Award with her work Surface Tension. This piece sparked a new direction in her explorations with glass, a material that she deems inseparable from light. Furthermore, after obtaining a bursary from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (2019), she began an important artistic research on caustics that still fuels her current work. The arrival of the pandemic marked an intensive period spent in the dark room, where she devoted herself to the creation of photograms. Self-Organising Symmetries is her second solo exhibition.

Espace VERRE is a glass creativity centre located at 1200 Mill Street in Montreal. The gallery is open for visits upon reservation Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as the last Sunday of every month, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free of charge.


– 30 –

Download the Exhibition Catalogue (French only) [PDF].

On Self-Organising Symmetries and Zou Desbiens’ Artistic Process [PDF].

Photo: Zou Desbiens, Erosion

Artwork reservation:
Valérie Paquin, Communications Manager
514 933-6849

By |2021-03-23T14:46:39-05:00March 11th, 2021|exhibition, news|0 Comments