An interview with Michelle Leblanc Lawrence by Rachelle Smith
Tell me a bit about yourself. Where you were born? What are your roots?
I was born in Kapuskasing, a smallish town in Northern Ontario. My twin sister and I are the youngest of a very large French Canadian family. I lived in Kap until the age of 17 when I left to go to OCA. Many years later, in 1989, I came to Guelph. I attended U of G, where I graduated with an honours BA in French. I loved it here so I stayed.
When did you know yourself to be an artist?
I knew myself to be an artist at around age 13 or 14. I just couldn’t get enough of drawing. I dreamt about drawing (literally) and in all my daydreams I pictured myself living the bohemian life of an artist. My parents didn’t support my decision to go to art school and so I was on my own financially. I got a part-time job as a bilingual operator for American Express and supported myself that way. It was evidence of my need and dedication to pursue Art. OCA as it was known in the 70s, was smaller back then; there were only about 700 of us in the whole school. It was the best experience of my life.
Whose art and style has influenced you the most?
There are many artists whom I love and whose body of works has influenced me over the years. Most are contemporary. My favourites at the moment include Motherwell, Rothko and Twombly but I also love Pollock, Pratt, Coughtry, Bush, Riopelle, Frankenthaler… I admire their use of colour, lines, marks, detail, colour fields, texture…and what their respective art evokes in me.
The stark landscape of the North has always had an influence on my work. I’m also from an artistic family. One of my fondest memories is of sitting on my mom’s knee watching as she drew a horse and thinking how magical it was that she could do that and that I could recognize the image as a horse.
What can you tell me about the creative process
The works spring from my vision and my ideas, but it the process comes down to understanding the elements of composition and understanding colour. I paint to music mostly but I find silence to be just as evocative. I like having incense burning too…. So I guess many senses guide me and stimulate my creative psyche and facilitate the process.
The title of the show you’re having at Whitestone in May is Un temps vécu : vestiges de mon passé. How is this title significant?
With this show I am going back to my roots. I have been focusing on those significant experiences in my life in order to create the pieces. Most are on paper, which is fitting for a girl from a pulp and paper town. I have used words in these works as well. Un temps vécu literally means Moments Lived. Vestiges de mon passé means the Traces of my Past. There is a play on words in there as well about the literal marks/traces that I leave on the works, whether with the brush, my fingers or the charcoal.
You have a show scheduled with other francophone artists in the fall?
Yes with Richard Pilon and Daniel Durocher, good friends and excellent artists who also live in Guelph. The show will be at the Bartlett Gallery in Alton Mills in September, 2014.