GREAT ENCOUNTER /
Painter of moments of introspection, Joan Dumouchel probes the nuances of the human psyche in a contemporary body of work that leaves room for imagination. Her realistic faces inhabit dreamlike universes that are conducive to escape. Portrait of an intuitive artist.
Joan Dumouchel has always dreamed of becoming an artist. As far as she can remember, the 63 years old artist has always loved to draw. While she attended art classes at UQAM, abstraction was the favoured style. However, portrait has long exercised its fascination on her. "My favorite classes were on live model. Charcoal in hand, I drew incessantly." After having taught visual arts for a few years, she is approached by the art supplies retailer Omer Deserres to hold training workshops for art teachers. This connection leads to another with the Liquitex acrylic paint company who sends her to England, accompanied by a select group of international artist, with the mission of testing their material. The experience proved to be an unforgettable one, on a cultural as well as an artistic basis.
It's around that time, after a succession of events, that her artistic career is definitely launched. Although art has been central to her life for quite a long time, Joan Dumouchel creates her first painting at the age of 40. A first exhibition in Rimouski in 1998 and then another in a Laval library generate enough interest to motivate her to submit her work to a few galleries. Within a few years many represent her and in 2002 she dedicates all of her time to her art.
This momentum is easily understandable upon viewing Joan Dumouchel's body of work. The artist has her own well-defined style and her visual vocabulary is well-established from the start. Her masterfully painted realistic faces exist in an abstract world
where the artist carefully creates an ambiance while leaving enough negative space to allow the spectator to imagine the end of the story. Despite the use of certain symbols, of charcoal and stencils, the whole retains an airiness that well serves the mood of Joan Dumouchel's paintings. The distribution of colours, which she prefers scaled down, is often declined from warm to cold.
It is said that art should raise questions. Joan Dumouchel appears to be playing with this principle by happily exploring the cracks between moments. The instants she chooses to depict are discreet, evanescent, and even invisible to the undiscerning eye. Her main inspiration, the circus, comes from her daughter who happens to be a circus artist and who is in fact featured in many of the paintings. "I have always been attracted to this world I find inspiring and that focuses on the human being." Thus the magic of the circus, but not entirely. She likes to paint backstage scenes, the artists before and after their performance during that short reflective moment the content of which can only be imagined.
One of the challenges artists must tackle is to really get to know themselves in order to ease the free flow of creativity. With experience, they begin to recognize their own mechanisms and gain maturity in their artistic process. Joan Dumouchel has travelled this creative path and is well aware of her own abilities. She intersperses her painting sessions with restorative breaks. "I need to be able to take these breaks without feeling guilty, otherwise I sabotage my own system." Thus she takes time to clear her thoughts. And then she gets scared. "I always bring new elements from one painting to another. I'm always fearful that inspiration will stop, that I've reached the limits of my abilities. Then, the magic operates and I am able to carry-on. Painting is a real outlet for me, an actual therapy."
For this professed perfectionist, learning to surrender, to let the painting go where it needs to go without tripping on details, is an exercise in patience. "The most difficult is to trust yourself, to believe in what you are," she says with conviction. Her work is impregnated with this concern for sincerity and authenticity. To transmit her inner feelings, to efficiently communicate fleeting impressions, this is where she needs to focus her efforts. Very intuitive, she entertains a quasi-fusional relationship with her figures, almost inhabiting them until the painting is completed. First she traces the face with charcoal, then adds colours and textures. These timeless instances unfold in a meditative state where the artist trusts her instincts. Simultaneously working on different canvases sometimes serves as catalyst to a temporary questioning. Joan Dumouchel always follows her inner compass.
She grew more confident in her use of colour overtime, today using more intensive shades. "I've always been rather cautious with colour, mostly favouring beige," she says laughingly. Her work has also evolved with the return of certain elements that reveal themselves on the canvas, the presence of charcoal being a concrete example.
Considering herself as very fortunate in her artistic career, Joan Dumouchel has but one wish: to produce a timeless body of work in a world that is becoming increasingly disposable.
Represented by: Galerie Blanche, Montréal Iris, Baie-st-paul Michel Bigué, St-sauveur Martin Gallery, USA Mary Martin Gallery, USA Thompson Landry, Toronto
Légende équestre II, acrylic on canvas, sylver leaf and mixed media, 36 x 60 in
Apprivoise-moi, acrylic on canvas and mixed media, 36 x 36 in
Silence, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 20 x16 in
Scheila, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 in
Kloe, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 24 x 24 in