Myriam Rousseau is a talented Montreal artist whose recent vernissage featuring paintings of bison caught my attention. Her fresh, water colour-like treatment of these massive animals singly and in groups captures their majesty, power, and masculinity. Each one, though clearly a bison, is unique from the others, almost like people. I wanted to know more about this artist and her inspirations, so I asked her a few questions about how she created this particular group of works.
Rachel Levine (RL): How did you get started in painting? Is it the only medium you work in?
Myriam Rousseau (MR): I’ve painted for many years, introduced to the medium as a child through art school. I also studied fine arts in university during which time as well as painting, I focused on sculpture and photography. My paintings today are acrylic based, sometimes incorporating mixed-media (pastel and collage_. My artistic background also includes training in classical and contemporary dancing.
RL: The focus of each piece is the bison. Why did you chose bison as a subject? What appeals to you about the bison?
MR: The bison came to me in a beautiful and long awaited flash. I’d been painting for years, but never with a subject or technical exploration that had moved me to the point of passion. I advanced my practice, I guess you could say as one does scales, or rehearses a movement sequence, fueled by joy and presence, just not by a sense of urgency. During these years I began asking the universe (!!) semi-regularly for a subject to paint with passion :). About two years ago when I moved into my new apartment, there was a big white wall onto which I imagined a larger sized canvas. I spent days observing this beautiful empty space, letting my mind go to what it envisioned there. And it then came to me, in a wonderful moment of clarity; I saw a bison, running in the snow, it’s beard and coat floating in the wind of its stride. It was an old bison. From then began the process, so wonderfully driven, of research and exploration, which then nourished every session. I proceeded to learn and understand more about the bison, its history, social life and anatomy. Already a being I found so profoundly beautiful and aware of its fragile presence among us due to human-caused near extinction I began to see to what point the bison are a gentle and powerful reminder of our connection with nature. Also, in many native cultures, the bison spirit animal represents aspects that I believe were meant to come to light to me at this point in my life: provision, gratitude, consistency, strength, stability, and blessing to name a few.
RL: One thing that’s very cool is how you allow the paint to drip in the painting, which gives it a very living look and a very fresh vibrant look. Is this done on purpose? Was it something you always did in your art?
MR: The drips also came with the bison. My first exploration led me to leave a few drips, not on purpose but just feeling the need to leave the traces of certain strokes as prints on the ground. Then, working with a white background the drips became a part of the form itself. Much of the process in painting these bison was one of becoming in tune with each particular bison, as if each one had it’s own presence and its own something to say. I felt I was to “listen” to what it was each was wanting to say, and “bring it home” as I would often hear in my mind as I painted (!). The drips were integrated in this process, some leaving more than others.
RL: Is this your first major vernissage in Montreal? If yes, what was it like for you to hold your first vernissage? Was the vernissage organized through a gallery or done independently?
MR: Yes, this was my first major vernissage in Montreal and it was organized independently. It was a lovely event and occasion to come together. Le Cheval Blanc are an open and vibrant crew and provide a wonderful space and I feel expos do well in this living space of Le Cheval Blanc.
RL: What do you think of the reception to your work? You sold many paintings the first night!
MR: The reception was so positive! It was great to receive the feedback. I wasn’t expecting to sell as many paintings and to clients unexpected! A very warm way to share this work.
RL: How long did it take you to prepare the paintings (also, how many were in the vernissage in total)? Did you show all your paintings or are there still others that you left behind?
MR: I’ve been working on this Bison series for about a year and a half. In all, 21 paintings are being shown, 10 smaller formats, 11 larger. Some were left behind.
RL: What are your goals, if any, for your art career?
MR: I’d like to keep painting and exploring. The bison came to me like a herd of friendly giants with their majestic and powerful presence in a sense coaxing me to go ahead, trust and engage, even without knowing the outcome. This makes me think of an inspirational quote by Millman that I sometimes come back to:”Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.” In a sense this would mean for me to stay in tune and keep working.
Rousseau’s paintings are well worth checking out. Stop by Cheval Blanc (809 Ontario E) before July 5. If anyone has more info or wishes to purchases a painting, you can get in touch with Myriam HERE. You can find out more about Rousseau’s work HERE.