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Monday October 27 2014 / Art & Design - A Little Levity

The ancient, pre-Christian Celts believed that there was one day of the year when the ghosts of the dead mingled with the living. This day, called Samhain, was a time to pay tribute to the spirits of their departed ancestors.

Nowadays, this tradition has evolved into “Halloween”, where the dead have become a creepy costume and rather than honouring them, we often find them terrifying.

In his workshop, surrounded by what looks like a set of props from a Hollywood horror flick, Maskull Lasserre seems to be reinvigorating this ancient Celtic tradition, repurposing familiar objects into macabre sculptures and carvings.

Where there were once bell jars, tree branches or axes, Lasserre has chiselled intricate skulls, nooses and snake skeletons.

Born in Canada in 1978, Lasserre moved with his family to South Africa where he spent his early childhood before relocating back to Canada. From his brief period on the African continent, Lasserre says he acquired “ingenuity when it comes to reusing discarded everyday objects”.

Watch the video of him at work below:

“There’s this constant recycling of early generation sculptures with things that I find, with tools and equipment and processes, and they all get tumbled around,” he says.

Lurking behind the hollowed out eyes of a paper skull sandwiched between metal clamps or a rolling pin half-eaten by a hunched over skeletal being, Lasserre has incorporated his passion for human and animal forms.

As he explains: “I’ve got an obvious interest in biology. My objective is just to make [the sculptures] believable and genuine-looking enough so that the viewer has that moment of suspension, of disbelief, when they’re looking at them […] You know a bed post isn’t the obvious thing to make a replica foetal skeleton out of.”

In addition to his passion for biology, Lasserre says some of his work is also guided by the phenomenon of synaesthesia, in which one or more of the five senses are intertwined. People who experience this neurological anomaly might taste or hear colours, for example.

By transforming the original purpose of an object (i.e. coat hanger, axe or tree branch) into a different, unexpected form, Lasserre incorporates synaesthesia into his work. So for example, a butcher’s knife will retain its blade but the handle is manipulated into a violin scroll, evoking sounds of music rather than the visible action of chopping wood.

Lasserre challenges himself to work with materials with which he is not familiar or objects that are cumbersome and difficult to shape, including pianos, safes, vices and large boulders; he needed a forklift to place the latter on top of a steel piano to create his piece “Coriolis”.

“I think that there is a great deal of play in what I do. And, it’s always the things that I enjoy the most that end up being the most successful.”

If Lasserre has anything to teach us this Halloween, it is that “appearances can be deceiving”. So beware of ghosts, goblins and monsters walking the streets asking for extra candy this week.

Happy Halloween!

To find out more about Maskull Lasserre, please visit:

Suggested by
Maximilian Büsser