My work is is partly autobiographical but also metaphorical -the figures of women serve as a universal symbol of human emotions, and express my anxious struggle to understand our short life on earth.
Montréal artist Alexandra Levasseur’s art seems a perfect and achingly lovely combination of the classic modern canon, and contemporary painting. The pictures emerge as a tableaux of sweetly yet powerfully rendered feminine sexuality, an often modest, yet alluring erotic appeal, transformed by not only the often ordinary and strange setting but also the calligraphic ornamentation of paint spots, pencil inscriptions, textile like inflections scattered across the composition.
Levasseur’s ever-somnolent women lie awash in vibrant flat areas of paint, the division of the canvas recalling the ordinary yet gorgeous scenes of the famous 20th century painter David Hockney.
And yet, in Levasseur’s work there is also a sort of painterly draping of patterns, abstract, floral, geometric, clouds alternately opaque and transparent. The paintings are resplendent with leitmotifs of a symbolic form of nature, feminine fecundity and the universal struggles of humankind.
Alexandra has worked on a cohesive and constantly evolving body of portraits of women over the last six years, and her practice draws inspiration from scientific studies including physics, astrophysics and biology.
When Alexandra was only a child, her grandmother introduced her to the work of the French Symbolists: “This was my first contact with paintings and still today influences my love of poetic and dream like scenes.”
Alexandra’s work begins with paper mounted on wood panels, and the painting takes form with pencil, acrylic, and oil paint. The process remains visible, in many of her works, in the sense one can see the painterly marks. These inscriptions allow an intimacy, leaving these traces is intended as a way to “capture an instant of time, movement and transformation.”
The artist has been working for over ten years, and notes that her work began as an expression of her own internal struggles and identity, and now focus instead –
“on seeing myself as a tiny element of a vast and mysterious world. I stepped back to see from afar. I used to make art to understand better understand myself and now it functions to allow me to understand the world around me.”
RB: I immediately saw the beauty of Odilon in your work and then came upon the series Hommage à Odilon, please tell me more about this group of work. There is a depiction of a certain kind of blindness, the hollow face and a strange continum from front to back…
AL: I am interested in the idea that our senses may limit our perception in some ways. I often imagine that if humans had no eyes, everything would work very differently, but the Earth, trees, and sky would still be there.
String theory proposes that we live in a world with dimensions that we cannot perceive (10 space-dimensions + 1 time-dimension). Through painting such absence, I strengthen my intention to illustrate problems like the antagonism of matter and consciousness, the representation of life and death and of the real and unreal.
For Alexandra, art allows rumination on biology –finding poetry in contradictions, allowing unraveling of a complex of simplicity and intricacy. Works such as The Bathers (above) allow her to respond to questions of the mystery of being, through a depiction of cycles, transformation of matter, energy, life, and death.
RB: Can you elaborate more on the everpresent theme of sexuality and feminity in your work?
AL: “In my work, woman represents life, she is the enigmatic beauty of Mother Nature. I want to make the viewer realize the extraordinary chance we have to experience life despite the inevitable pain and misfortune that life brings…. I want to communicate the mystery of the universe and the beauty of human kind.”