A Prologue to Novella’s Conversation with Artist Mark Liam Smith

“I view art itself as a language.” — Mark Liam Smith
‘Grey Stallion’ — Oil on canvas, 72 x 48, 2017.
Much has been written on Mark Liam Smith, especially after he was granted the Emerging Artist Award in 2015 and won this year’s Visual Arts grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Despite the complexity and depth of his works, much of the coverage seems to home in on Mark’s colorblindness. Considering how his last two series, Imagined Narratives (2016) and A Day at the Met (2016)and his latest Of Centaurs and Men (2017) deal with matters of perspective, subjectivity, and the process of interpreting art, it seems a curious approach. That the biographical detail is neither a limitation nor a defining feature of Mark’s works is clear once one takes in the ‘Grey Stallion’, the 72 x 48 oil painting now on view at Montreal’s Galerie Youn. There’s a lot to take in and consider — the intricate composition, the detailed physiology, the narrative, the colors —, so much so that Mark becomes, as should be the case with moving works of art, almost incidental. Especially with his narratively consuming works like ‘The Blessing’ and ‘Hippodamia’, there’s time only to appreciate what’s at hand.
In Of Centaurs and Men, Mark projects his vision and perspective onto the classic mythological figures, and thereby refocuses our attention to the imagined lives of the creatures. If magic-realism is a way of expressing the beauty and details of the real world through surreal and magical language, the world of the centaurs is a reflection of truths of the audience’s reality. In other words, the paintings are narratives that make the viewer reflect on the strange and the beautiful.
‘The Secrets of the Forest’ — Oil on canvas, 72 x 48, 2017.

Mark Liam Smith is a Toronto-based artist. He recently received the Ontario Arts Council’s coveted Visual Arts grant. His latest exhibit, ‘Of Centaurs and Men‘ is on view at Montreal’s Galerie Youn until October 28th. Stay tuned for our interview with Mark. 

All images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Youn.

Bruno Ledyet’s TABLEAUX VIVANTS at Montreal’s Galerie Youn

Bruno Ledyet is a Montreal-based painter whose works are concerned with introspection, beauty, and certain kinds of intrigue. Nudity is common in Ledyet’s work yet it is approached as a way to deeper feelings. Through June 29th, Montreal’s celebrated gallery, Galerie Youn will be hosting TABLEAUX VIVANTS, a public and free exhibit of his works. Here, Ledyet explains aspects of his works and his creative process:

Portrait de Juno Youn et Lloyd — Bruno Ledyet (Acrylic on canvas, 48” x 72”, 2017) Image courtesy of Galerie Youn

In most paintings, the figures are not engaged in a particular activity. They’re in a contemplative state, perhaps thinking about the beauty in their surroundings. They’re almost hedonistic, away from the craziness of the outside world, creating their own aesthetics.

Everything starts with a pattern, a combination of colors. Inspiration can come from a film, a video, a painting, bit of paint on a wall somewhere, etc. But it also comes from the model. There has to be something that captivates me about the person, something I find so beautiful that I have to paint it.

My portraits are like tableaux vivants: they’re not scenes from everyday life, but are inspired by it. They are landscapes of my mood when I painted them. Often, a figure is a starting point. Patterns and juxtapositions in colors appear almost organically. Or I have something in mind already and it happens to fit. For instance, in ‘An-devant le Rideau Chinois,’ I wanted to capture the figure’s flesh, his gaze, his style; then the red shades and the pattern became obvious to me.

An devant le rideau chinois — Bruno Ledyet (acrylic on canvas, 20” x 30”, 2017) Image courtesy of Galerie Youn

The models’ faces and their gazes are crucial. Most often, they look out — they know they are being looked at and they stare back. In a way, they are presenting themselves to the viewer. ‘Portrait of J’ is a good example. It has a few symbols — my symbols —, clues I left here and there that hold parts of the meaning of the piece.

Very often, the meaning of a work relates to my own life. But this occurs on a subconscious level. I realize it only long after I’ve finished a piece. Often, the models are, in fact, me. The works are dream-like, stylized versions of my life and the feeling it entails.

‘Toile de Jouy Dream’ started with Samuel. He has posed for another painting and had told me that he had this suit made with a Toile de Jouy pattern. I knew I had to do a painting of him wearing it. Two years or so passed and I had this dream — I often have these weird dreams of strange landscapes and places in crazy Technicolor, or ones with great big old houses filled with objects — where I saw a prairie with a row of odd-looking houses with huge storks made of green tiles in the front. And I thought of putting Samuel in that place and using the greens and blues to give it this unreal nighttime feel and depth to the surroundings.

Toile de Jouy Dream — Bruno Ledyet (acrylic on canvas, 48” x 72”, 2017) Image courtesy of Galerie Youn

‘Adrian Odalisque’ exemplifies my approach. It is a take on art history, namely the female nudes from the 17th to the 19th century. The figure in ‘Adrian Odalisque’ seems to be offering himself to the gaze of the viewer, but he’s not. Even though my paintings often have male nudes, or are nude portraits, my art is not erotica. My figures’ faces often display melancholy, not desire. They speak more about revealing the self, about being vulnerable, about taking risks. There is quite a bit of irony in my paintings — a romanticism that doesn’t take itself seriously and a subtle surrealism.

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