On Saturday December 10th we will celebrate the opening of Edith Lebeau's solo show When The Light Goes Out. Here, the Canadian artist opens up to us about what she calls her most personal work to date, soothing serious issues with serene pastel palettes and symbolic imagery. Below, she explains a thorough glimpse into her painting process as well as a list of current working artists whose faces you may notice in the series! Swing by the gallery soon to see the work up close.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
JV: Edith, I am very much looking forward to your upcoming show "When The Light Goes Out". I must say that your statement for the series resonates with me so deeply as a woman. Are you willing to elaborate a bit on the personal place it is coming from?
EL: Yes of course. This series was inspired by personal anxieties and experiences. I've been dealing with different anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and social anxiety for many years now. I've been working on overcoming my fears and learning to accept my condition and who I am in the last couple of years. I'm still working on it and I thought I should explore those fears and experiences through a series of new paintings for my solo show.
JV: Wow, that sounds like it must be very difficult and I hope that your art has served as a positive way to cope. I think it is safe to say that you are not alone in these experiences. Do you have any favorite artists or pieces of art that inspire you?
EL: I'm doing good! Anxiety is only there part of time, luckily. The show is about that dark side of my mind but it's only a part of me, I'm a very positive and joyful person aside from that. But yes, art has helped a lot. It gives me the freedom to express myself without having to speak. That's a good thing because expressing myself with words has always been hard for me.
There are a lot of artists out there whose work I really love. For this show I actually painted some of them! Daria Lapto also known as "Claymate Creatures", J.A.W Cooper, Mab Graves, and Amy Sol. I like to paint women that inspire me. I also like the works of Erik Jones, Alexandra Levasseur, Allison Sommers, Jennybird Alcantara, Travis Louie, Syd Bee, Casey Weldon, Amy Earles, Lori Nelson and the list could go on and on. A piece that really inspires me for it's atmosphere is "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth. I just always keep coming back to this piece. Another artist that keeps inspiring me, from different media, is Floria Sigismondi. Especially for her work on music videos.
JV: I would like to commend you on your use of color both in general and in this series. The distinct palette beautifully compliments this serious, feminine content. Is there personal meaning or purpose behind the color you use?
EL: Usually not so much. But this time it kind of did. Since this show was about fear and dark feelings I might have gone with dark tones but I really did not want to go there. I felt the theme was grim enough and thought I could tone it down and express my hopefulness by adding a bit of pastel colors. I realized that the darker the theme of the piece is the more colorful it is! Haha! It was not planned though.
JV: That is very interesting. Now we can think a bit more about each piece and how intense the theme is based on the color! Could you give us some insight into your studio process? Any rituals or techniques you want to share?
EL: It usually starts with a blurry idea of what I want to create. I then contact my friends to schedule a photoshoot. If my model is too far away, like for some of my artists friends, I contact them and send them some instructions on what I would like to do and the feeling that I would like to express and they take pictures and send them to me. Once I have all the pictures I choose the one I want carefully by looking at the expression and take the one that I feel more connected too. Then I put it in photoshop, make it black and white on photocopy mode very very very pale just to see some of the lines. I then erase the parts that I know I'll change. I print it, at this point it kinda looks like a part of an extremely pale drawing with missing elements. I then proceed to draw over it, adding shadows, changing the hair, changing parts of the face if I need too, adding other elements, clothes, textures, adding a background. Then once the drawing is done, I scan it, print it and then I transfer it to my canvas. Than I paint with acrylics. I don't have a special method after that. I sometimes do the background before, but most of the time I do it at the end. The colors are rarely planned. It's always blurry in my head and keeps changing while I work. It's the part that is most unconscious and instinctive.
JV: Recently, I had been discussing with someone, the way that modern figurative artists sometimes develop a "character" that they depict most often in their paintings who comes from a mixture of their own personal aesthetic, their own physical appearance, and idealization or conceptual emphasis. I happened to use your work as an example of this happening in a successful way. Would you say that you are consciously choosing certain character muses?
EL: I do tend to use the same model over and over and changing her hairstyle and personality in the pieces. I like to create different characters for the same person. When I go through the pictures from the shootings there are often a lot of pictures that I want to keep. I find the facial expression from certain persons fascinating. You can look at two almost identical pictures and see two very different emotions just through the eyes. There are some models that I just really like to work with. They are usually friends/artists and people I look up too.
JV: I know that you collaborated once on a painting with Casey Weldon which I thought was so interesting and successful! Do you think you will do more collaboration in the future?
EL: Collaborating with Casey is always a pleasure. That guys is so awesome. He is extremely talented and such a great human. I love doing collaboration. I did one with my friend and artist Marie-Eve Proteau too. That was such a great collab as well. I would definitely love to do more.
JV: I am very interested in the secondary imagery you are using in your paintings. I like how you use conceptual elements decoratively to illustrate each theme. Can you talk a little about the process in which you come up with these ideas?
EL: I like to use certain symbols that come back often in my paintings. They usually have the same meanings but can change depending on the theme I'm exploring in the piece. And sometimes they are just decorative, of course. For example, I often use feathers. They used to just be decorative elements but they became more and more present with time until they kind of merged into some sort of cocoon of feathers in my pieces "Feather cocoon" and "Staying in". They then became a symbol of protection from the outside world for me. You can see, in my new body of work, that they are usually attached to a blanket or knitted scarf. The blanket or knitted fabric also has the same meaning in my new pieces.
JV: Is there any particular imagery that is most prominent to you in this series?
EL: Yes, one of the conscious symbols that is present in this series is the Ocean. There is something for me about a grey day at the ocean (a non-crowded one of course) that makes me feel alone in the world with a certain sense of nostalgia. The only thing that you can hear is the sound of the waves and the wind. In this new body of work, the characters are left alone with their emotions and I thought that the ocean would add to that feeling.
"When The Light Goes Out", for me, is mostly about solitude, the fear of loss (friendship, love and basically ending up alone) and other anxieties and insecurities.
JV: This is so helpful to understand before viewing the work. Where do you think you will take your art from here?
EL: I don't exactly know yet as I've just finished this series. But I will keep exploring this theme for a while. I feel like I'm not over it yet.
JV: This may be a difficult question to answer but do you have any big-picture ultimate art goals to accomplish in your lifetime?
EL: I try not to think too much about the future. I try to go day by day. I don't have big goals except continuing to do solo shows and being part of group shows or collaborations if I have the opportunity too. That makes me really happy. I would love to do cover art for music albums and for books. That would be so amazing! I would love to one day collaborate on a clothing line, that would be cool.
When the Light Goes Out will be on view this December at Modern Eden Gallery with an opening from 6 pm–9 pm on Saturday, December 10. We hope to see you there!