Marie-Eve Proteau is a Canadian artist living in Austria. After exploring her work as a painter through various unconventional mediums, she now focuses on her first twisted love: acrylic on canvas. Her paintings capture female figures in contemplative states of human emotion. We are honored to feature her radiant piece “Black Lagoon” in our Mermay exhibition.
Interview by Waiton Farrell
WF: Hi Marie-Eve. How are you doing during shelter-in-place?
MEP: Well, I guess I'm not the only one to answer this, but I'm used to a certain cocoon way of living already, and I'm a pretty solitary person. But this time of course, there is a little under-layer of more tension [due to the] with all this situation. Two days after I moved officially to Austria, the quarantine started. But I have a lot to do in my new studio, which is luckily situated on the other side of the street where I live. I have some new projects to put in place too. I'm taking this time to discover and try new line products for my work and explore a little more since I have extra time. So, at least, I'm able to keep l occupied. It helps a lot on more stressful days. I try to keep optimistic the best that I can.
WF: Your work features only female figures. How did you come to decide this was the ideal way to express your artistic vision?
MEP: As long as I can remember, it was always the case, I painted female figures. It came naturally to me I guess because, as a hypersensitive person, I always wanted to paint something close to who I was, regarding emotions and representation. I protect my intimacy behind a lot of layers but at the end, my work is still really personal & raw. I'm pretty shy as a person and I feel that my voice is free to express more easily with a brush than with some words sometimes. I'm inspired by the sensuality, the aesthetic in the interesting contrast and complexity that the feminine universe provides; there's a lot of colors and emotional avenues to share here.
WF: Working in acrylic there is a luminescence to your pieces that would be muted in other mediums. What other mediums have you explored before falling in love with acrylic?
MEP: Drawing was my first love as long as I can remember regarding my artistic explorations; it was a space to develop my own creative cocoon. I was using mostly colored pencils and pastel. Later, in college, I discovered acrylic and began to integrate it in my backgrounds and slowly it became my dominant medium. With time, I learned to work with the challenge of this medium and to blend my palette as smoothly as possible. The process of layering with transparence is in symbiosis with the finish that I expected. I have to admit, it was always a love/hate relationship in a way, but it remains my favorite medium. I combine a little touch of dry pastel at the end of my process, especially for some highlights and, most recently, gold ink too.
WF: I noticed that your piece for Mermay, Black Lagoon is distinctly proportioned with more realism than your surrealistic impressions in previous work. The colour palate is subdued as well. I particularly love the aura in the mist surrounding her. What emotions and thoughts does this figure represent?
MEP: The choice of my color palette is such a ritual and an important aspect of my work, I'm happy if it was reaching you in some ways. The aesthetic of my characters are usually at first soft, fragile, even pleasant, but always the shelter of a darker allusion. In this case, my mermaid was a reflection of a stranded melancholic & delicate soul, but tinted with a twisted past. The light around her represents, in a way, the relief of being finally found by her soulmate; even if she could be more fierce and strong then she appears behind this fragile expression. I love to suggest that another character is present, in a way, without being concretely represented in the painting. This part is shared with the spectator. And, I appreciated -- with guilty pleasure, in this case -- using a little vintage melodramatic touch to represent this scene.
WF: What would you most like your collectors and admirers of your work to know about it?
MEP: Contrasted emotions are the main essence in my work and I really try my best to reach my audience by giving them the opportunity to draw their own impression of the little symbols; the empty spaces; and the color choices that I incorporate into my pieces. There is space to make it your own in some points, to write your personal interpretation to it. It's, in some ways, a sharing composition. My work is in constant evolution, I expect this to continue in the future. I feel that since my personal life is in a big transition with my new home country, it will affect, in a positive way, my artistic practice. Also, I try to give a soul to my character: I get attached to them and it's a little part of me who flies with them to their new homes when they get adopted. And I feel really grateful & blessed when it's the case.
WF: What projects and exhibitions are you most excited about for the coming year?
MEP: Since I have to explore a new continent at the moment, I am doing some research to learn to know more about my new surroundings, and I'm working on some new bigger size pieces as well to present some new work. It's really exciting and challenging, I have to admit. I have some little retro-television and paintings commissioned pieces to do this summer, and a group exhibition in Portugal at the Penumbra Gallery in the early fall.
WF: What suggestions would you make to a newly beginning artist who wants to work in acrylic?
MEP: I think when you can focus on your work and practice a lot, a lot and a lot, it's the key. When I had the opportunity to become a full time artist, I concretely saw my progress. I have to admit that my first experience with acrylic was not totally love at first sight. But don’t get discouraged by the little demanding and challenging aspect of the medium: I think that it's worth the efforts! You have to find your own way of feeling comfy with the blending and fast drying but it's a satisfying challenge. You will become friends.
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