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Studio Visits: Manon Labrosse blends the abstract and real

By Alejandro Bustos on May 17, 2013

The National Capital Region has numerous talented artists.  To showcase this artistic cornucopia, today we begin a new feature called Studio Visits, where we profile local artists inside their work spaces.  We begin our tour with local painter Manon Labrosse.

On the second floor of her home, in a room filled with guitars, books and walls smeared with colourful brushstrokes, Manon Labrosse creates her intriguing abstract paintings.

For several years, her practice combined abstract forms with images of telephone poles or power lines, such as the painting below (one of my favourite pieces by her).  Inspired by memories of road trips to a family farm in Northern Ontario, the colour tone in these paintings is dark – to the point that one can imagine being on the side of a highway at dusk, looking at electrical lines.

telephone poleIn contrast, her most recent work contains much brighter colours and has as its theme tree logs, an idea inspired by the former tree farm that her father owned for many years.

“I didn’t appreciate what I had,” recalls Labrosse, as she reflects on her teenage years, while growing up in the small francophone community of Hearst.  “I didn’t take advantage of [the tree farm].”

If you look at the top of this post,  you will see the progress on her current series of paintings called Thaw, which combine abstract techniques with log images (the latter being based on two photographs taped to the wall).

With her earlier work, Labrosse says that she ended up feeling constrained by the darkness of the colours and painting style.  In a quest for more artistic freedom, she started experimenting with lighter colours, as well as the intriguing technique of letting drops of paint roll down the canvas in order to leave clear lines.

“Now I want to relax more and be more messy,” says Labrosse, who has lived in Ottawa since 1998.  “I just like the drips and I added more colours, added more white.”

My initial reaction when I saw the drip lines was to think of teardrops or rain drops.  These lines, however, can also symbolise an awakening, such as in her Thaw series, where the drips can be seen as the melting of snow and ice.

As for her style of combining abstraction with images of a specific “real-world” objects, she says that this comes from inspiration during her student days.

“I started in university,” says Labrosse, who graduated with a B.F.A. from the University of Ottawa in 2002.  “At the time I was obsessed with Radiohead.  The guy who did their album covers was Stanley Donwood, who works with symbols.”  This interest in symbols lead her to create themes inside otherwise abstract paintings.

While Labrosse has no plans to exhibit this year (her focus is to finish the Thaw series), she hopes to participate in this year’s Nuit Blanche with a video project.

As well, her work will be on display at the Le pARTy yearly auction at the Ottawa Art Gallery (stay tuned for a ticket giveaway contest next week).  The fundraiser at 2 Daly Avenue is scheduled for May 30, and is a great opportunity to buy art from local artists.

In the meantime, her paintings can be found at Galerie St-Laurent + Hill.  For specific examples of her work at the gallery website click here.