In anticipation for the upcoming beautiful.bizarre curated exhibition ‘Bitter | Sweet‘, opening this Saturday 18March at 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace, we reached out to Alexandra Levasseur one of the contributing artists. Currently living and working in Montreal, Canada, Alexandra has created work that whispers intimate and beautiful secrets. Creeping rose vines twist around glaciers and glittering stalactites. A girl dreams while an arrow on fire burns bright, piercing her heart. Pastel swaths of impasto paint surround and penetrate these beings, deeply pensive in their solitude, Alexandra’s work is a gorgeous illusory and allegorical world, close enough to pour over with the eyes but deep enough to become lost within.
Read on for a sneak peak at Alexandra’s gorgeous contributions to the show, and a deeper look at an artist’s process.
Time lapse video of Alexandra working on L’Extase for the ‘Bitter | Sweet‘ exhibition
When asked how she interpreted the theme”Bitter | Sweet”, Alexandra stated that her piece “L’Extase” [below] which shows a woman wearing a string of plump cherries round her neck, is a moving metaphor for intoxicating euphoria. “Here I want to represent softness, pleasure and comfort. The figure is blending in the landscape giving the sensation of a delicious moment. The cherries and the oniric color palette add sweetness to the idea of extasis.” Beautiful, but fleeting, the Bitter | Sweet show will indeed have its aspect of tender moments.
With her second piece “Le Tourment” she states, “My work being in part autobiographical, the feminine figures in it naturally satisfy my need to express the anxiety and struggle to understand our short life on earth and find a real powerful meaning to it. In this piece, I want to illustrate the cold feeling of being lost, the loneliness and the disillusion.” Life, even in it’s happiest moments, is transient, and Bitter | Sweet indeed.
If you are interested in the above paintings, please contact 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace’s Gallery Director, Terri Lew [email protected]
I would love if you could tell us a little bit about your background as an artist.
Drawing was my favorite thing to do as a child and I never stopped doing it. My grandmother was a painter and influenced me a lot too.
You received your education in in the beautiful Costa Rica and Spain, which is far from your home in Canada. What led you to those places in particular and why is art education important to you?
I went to Costa Rica to learn Spanish with a student exchange. I really liked the country and its people so I did the exams to enter the Universidad de Costa Rica. I succeed at the test and decided to stay and study there. I had the plan of further my studies in Europe after my graduation in Costa Rica so I applied to an Illustration postgraduate in Barcelona, which accepted me too. The academic structure has given me the chance to meet great people -students and teachers- and to work on challenging projects that takes you out of your comfort zone. It gives you the time and resources to experiment, discuss and explore different subjects. It forces you to finish projects and receive constructive feedback.
At times, your work has a disjointed feel, like split second snaps of memories stitched together. Many feel like pensive intimate moments. What directly inspires your pieces, and how do you go from an idea to the actual work?
I often start with a background. I build collages from photographs and textures that matter to me. I do the same with the figures, I look for positions of body that convey the message I want to express and I construct the composition. I used to do that step on paper with magazine paper cuts, but lately I’ve been using the computer to facilitate the process. Once I’m set on the composition and color palette, I start working on the larger support with acrylic, oil and pencils mostly.
Some of your films and paintings all have a very organic, natural and fluid atmosphere, from the colors you choose to your subject matter, the inclusion of water and forest, and even some of the sound effects in your animations. I found Playing With Fire and Chaos is a Dancer II to be very cathartic and relatable. What is your stance on art therapy? What do you hope others will glean from your artwork?
My art is totally a form of therapy for myself. It serves me to understand me and my surrounding. It helps me to understand Nature as it is inspired mostly by scientific facts and theories and my own interpretation of them. I hope my work can make the viewer wonder and think about the mystery of being and the greatness of life and Nature.
There seems to be a focus on the female form, as well as a play on the difference between societal expectations of femininity versus the actual and authentic means of being a woman. Flowers and fire find a balance within your pieces. What is it about the female form that engages you and how do you feel about being a female artist in this day and age?
The representation of women in my work serves me as a universal symbol to illustrate an array of human emotions. My work being in part autobiographical, the feminine figures in it naturally satisfy my need to express the anxiety and struggle to understand our short life on earth and find a real powerful meaning to it. This anxiety relates of course to hysteria and the life struggle is amplified by the existentialist question of the gender. As a woman, I am very grateful to the Universe I am living in Montreal and in 2016, and this makes me question the concepts of time and space, of identity, happiness and fate. I believe women artists are getting day after day a stronger voice and this is helping in reducing inequality between men and women.
You paint, as well as create films. What drew you to traditional animation and do you plan to make any full-length features?
There is a sort of movement in my static paintings since some time and this came unconsciously with the need to strengthen ideas of transformation, expression, movement, temporality, rhythm, and the augmentation of the senses. This led me to start training in animated film: I realized it was a powerful tool to express those ideas. Animation is a 4 dimensions’ art form, the fourth one being the Time, an element that allows me to go further than the static painted representation.
You’ve done fashion illustrations, sketches of dancers, and your animations even have sound effects created by you. What can we hope to see from you in the future? Are there any mediums or artists you would like to work with?
I’m working on a new animated film that will be part of an installation with a series of paintings. I am also including more and more dance into my art and I’m just starting to collaborate with dancers and choreographers for my films and for performances that link my videos, visual effects and their choreographies. This is really a new project, we’ll see how it works.