Courtesy of Manon Labrosse
By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk with Manon Labrosse
An Aerial View of Logs Floating
Acrylic on wood panel
60″ x 60″ (152cm x 152cm)
What can we learn about this work?
The semi-abstract painting An Aerial View of Logs Floating changes how we see the landscape.
“It explores the aerial view of the landscape versus a more traditional frontal representation, taking the viewer above the landscape rather than what we would see from a standing position,” says artist Manon Labrosse. “The whole series In Search of the Landscape was created from photographs of aerial views of logging rivers, mostly from Northern Ontario and British Columbia.”
“I often use repetition in my paintings in order to create a pattern or establish a theme,” says Labrosse. “I find that using one shape in repetition can trigger memories for some people. In this case, the shape is the log. For me, the log has personal references to experiences or moments in time.
“In the past I used personal images or memories, such as pictures of a family farm, for my paintings. For this exhibition, however, I chose a series that is mostly neutral to me and used the log as an element in my composition because it’s a shape I enjoy working with. I did that in order to concentrate on composition and color, and also to allow people to make their own connections.”
“The log shape, and the patterns it creates, has become a tool, a way for me to figure out my composition by allowing my paint to drip around it and then working my way through my color choices,” says Labrosse.
Also, by incorporating a log, a recognizable shape, into the composition, this mostly abstract work becomes semi-abstract. (Like the rocks, the pool of water and the cascading water in the semi-abstract Enchanted Spaces VI).
Similarly to the log, the paint drippings played a big role in establishing the composition and color placement.
“All my paintings start off with many layers of different coloured washes,” says Labrosse. “This creates interesting patterns from the drippings. Once I’ve chosen my colours and drawn the logs, I filled the drippings with thicker layers of paint and just kept going over them with various tones of the same colour. The process is very intuitive and natural and can last for weeks, or days. In this work, I even twisted the panel around for the various layers of washes to have drippings going in every direction, so it almost seems like the water is slowly flowing around the central part of the painting.”
“The tricky part for me was to create movement,” says Labrosse.
Movement is the path a viewer’s eye follows through a composition. Art elements, such as lines, and contrasting shapes and colours, can be used to create a sense of direction.
“Using the drippings to create movement in the water part of the landscape came in handy, basically using the natural flow of water to create water made sense,” says the artist. “But then I didn’t want the land part of the painting to be static either, so I used the same technique to create a balance and to encourage the viewer’s eye to travel throughout the whole composition naturally. Looking at the painting, imagine there is a strong wind pushing through the water and the trees, and then you have the logs fighting to float away, but they are contained within a thin barrier.”
The drippings in the upper part of the painting direct the viewer to look down to, and then past, the fighting logs, to the horizontal ripples in the water. The horizontal ripples then direct the gaze to the right by connecting with the bright red patches of land on the right edge of the canvas. The bright red and green areas, as well as the dark, blackish-gray patch next to them, point upwards. The bright colours and the contrast created pull the gaze back to the logs and to the top of the canvas.
In Search of the Landscape is an exhibition in search of an experience; one that allows artist Manon Labrosse to fully submerge herself in the act of painting, rather than being distracted by words.
The artist’s past work has explored the often desolate Canadian landscapes of Northern Ontario, and a somewhat isolated childhood enriched by nature.
In her current work, Labrosse has made a choice to distance herself from any references to her personal life or to past work which was often dark and nostalgic. Instead, she chose to explore the act of painting as a new experience, similar to a child discovering nature.
By using aerial images of rivers and floating logs, Labrosse has created completely fictional landscapes while truly exploring this new perspective by using new colours, textures and compositions. This is an instinctive process created from the natural flow of dripping layers of diluted paint subsequently creating a pattern that is then filled with a new palette of colours. These landscapes, although contained within the panel, often seem to expand beyond its edges offering an illusion of continuity.
Finally, the artist chose to use the image of the log which has become an element that guides the composition of the landscape, rather than becoming iconic or symbolic. She went beyond her memories and approached this series with open-mindedness and imagination.
Manon Labrosse was born in Northern Ontario and now lives and works in Pontiac Quebec. Her painting series are semi-abstract and are representations of the Canadian landscape as seen from the perspective of different stages in her life. She is a multi-recipient of grants from the City of Ottawa and the Ontario Arts Council and is represented by Galerie St-Laurent + Hill and Gallery 3 in Ottawa, and Ferneyhough Contemporary in North Bay, Ontario.
Learn more about Manon, see more examples of her work, and connect with her: