What drew me instantly to Marie-Claude Lacroix’s paintings is how they teeter on the balance between realist representation and abstraction, not quite tricking the eye into thinking it’s a photograph, but not quite letting us slip into a totally formal reading of them either. Like still life moments in the studio, these lovely paintings are simultaneously familiar and disorienting, part of the process and about the process itself. More at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I am currently living and working in Montreal, my hometown. I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia University two years ago. I would say that my art education has really been about experimenting with different mediums and struggling to improve techniques. I started to embrace my failures as learning experiences, and in the end use them to my benefit. I had a love-hate relationship with university, but the second it was over I missed the academic world; the theory, critics and conversations with artists. I assume now that I am a painter; it has always been my favorite medium, but also the most challenging one. I remember having the feeling during my BFA, of being at war with my paintings, never fully satisfied with my projects. The moment I chose to embrace realism, the aesthetic I was in love with but rejecting for some reason, I felt connected with my work.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
Of course during my childhood I loved drawing, it has always been a fundamental part of who I am. As a young teenager, I was really sensitive and in search of my inner self, I found a refuge in art. For those reasons, I think it was a really natural choice to pursue an academic career in visual arts after high school.
What do you like most about working where you do?
The neighborhood where our studio is located is amazing. It’s in the mile-end, a really artsy and trendy area. The buildings are filled with artist’s studios, small businesses and start-ups. Working in this neighborhood makes me feel part of a creative community.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
For the past three years I have been working on contemporary still lives. I have been focusing on the same themes throughout the years, which are architecture, studio materials, the mundane, lights, shadows and absence. The pieces could all fit in a same series, but the paintings have become more complex over the past few months. Making textures has become the focal point, so that the materiality of the different elements can be felt more deeply. I wanted the paintings to be more fluid, still realist and precise, but less stiff.
What is your process like?
I would say that my paintings are totally planned. There is always room for improvisation on the colors and textures though, but the overall image and composition is always known in advance. One painting usually takes me about six to eight weeks to finish. My process is the result of a fascination for the construction and fragmentation of images, with the notion of exceeding the frame being a constant concern. The desire to represent visually different dimensions of materiality in all their particularities results in a creative process in which different media are accumulated at various stages.
The process begins with an exploration of ephemeral sculpture, followed by photographic capture and ending with the translation of sculptural fragments into painting. As this meticulous formal method suggests, the approach is in part a reflection of the search for artistic ritual. The stages of the creative process are inseparable and interdependent, accumulating as layers of information and creating complex visual effects. Images of a given space take on a spectral quality, imbued with indistinct but persisting traces of humanity. I always work on multiple models, but only on one painting at the time. I’ve tried several times to work on two or three pieces simultaneously but it never worked well for me. I think I really need to go deep inside one image before moving to another one.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Lately I’ve been obsessed with surrealist and pop still lives photography. Images with punchy colors, too many gradients, minimal compositions…In the past months I also found a lot of inspiration in the works of Nicolas Grenier, Gerard Richter and The Group of Seven.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I split my time between the studio and the restaurant where I’m working as a waitress. I like the difference between those two works, they both motivates me in a different way. I guess that for now it helps me to live a confortable daily life without having to deal with the money issues. So when I’m at the studio, I am totally focused on the paintings. But in another way, the waitress job is really grueling, and I sometimes get really tired of working nights shifts after my long days at the studio. The balance is hard to find.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
David Elliott is a Canadian painter, he was my teacher during my last year of my BFA, and I could easily say that he’s been my mentor. I am still really grateful for our conversations and the way he helped me during a time where I was really struggling to define my practice. He’s both an excellent teacher and an incredible painter. Conversations with Elliott were filled with technical advice, names of artists to look at, and passionate analysis of our paintings.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
The community is essential! I miss the social circle you create so easily at school with others artists. I would say it’s one of my biggest wish right now, to feel more that I am part of an artistic community like I did before. I think it always influence the work in a good way, even if the critics can be hard to hear sometimes. It’s just important to challenge your work, to discuss the way your peers perceives it, to engage with other people’s work.
What is your studio like?
My studio really suits me and my work. It’s really minimal, organized, and there’s a lot of lighting! It’s a really safe space. It’s a big shared studio, we’ve all become friends, and even if we’re eight people working there, the mood is always great. It can be very crowded sometimes but in general it’s pretty quiet.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I am a daytime person! I hate to wake up early but I have to admit that my energy is way better in the morning. I simply cannot work at night, especially that I’m only using day light to paint. I literally listen to any type of music, my friends always make fun of me because I have no taste in music (it’s a fact). I also listen to a lot of podcasts on contemporary art and some Montreal radio shows that are totally not related to art world. I generally spend three days at the studio per week, around twenty hours working on my paintings.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I will apply to MFA this year. I loved to take a three year break, it was necessary. I struggled a lot but learned so much. I think the break between a BFA and an MFA is an amazing time, where you define your work and your ambitions. I got so many refusals that I seriously thought about quitting. Being in a much better place right now I am thrilled to apply to an MFA next year. I feel it is the best way to make contacts now, and of course school challenges the comfort zone a lot, and helps to push the limits.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The most daunting part of my art practice is everything that surrounds the painting part. All the writing and the submissions are really a challenge for me. In my dreams I would only paint and the rest of it would be taken care of, as I said, in my dreams! Something I am working on is improving my public relations skills throughout art shows; it’s a weak spot for me. It’s strange because I’m not at all shy and generally very sociable, but at soon as it’s in some art context, I get too self-conscious and slightly intimidated. I guess it will become more natural as the years go by!
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I am really proud of having a first solo show in Montreal this year. I worked so hard on my applications, so I’m really glad it worked! It was my 2018 goal, I am so happy to accomplish that!
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on my solo show, scheduled for March 2019 in Montreal, very exciting! I will also be going to the Vermont Studio Center in mid-October, where I’ll be very focused and dedicated to my practice.