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 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 are 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 been a large part of my works. 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 drawing of the horse to be exactly that.
What can you tell me about the creative process
It comes down to understanding the elements of composition and organizing the canvas and how to mix colours. The works spring from my vision and my ideas. 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.
Tell me about your Un temps vécu : vestiges de mon passé series. How did it come about?
With this series I am going back to my roots. I was focusing on 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.
Tell me about the Personal Graffiti series.
Personal Graffiti started as a series of small works inspired by the beauty of language, the solace of words and the irony of life. They are little works but complex too. Each one has a unique message, partly hidden by layers of paint, some are more readable than others, but each is meant to reflect a feeling, a moment in time whether poignant or funny. Really, I’m playing with words and playing with paint. I enjoy the process of creating them