Marie-Claude Marquis Talks about Painting her Generation and Stripping Down.
Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, I am not hiding
Montreal based artist Marie-Claude Marquis is causing a stir with her paintings – gritty interpretations of everyday occurrences that capture the heart of the subcultures evolving around her. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about what influences her work and what she jams to in her studio.
HAHA MAG: Your paintings have some very unusual titles. Which comes first for you, the title or the piece?
Marie-Claude Marquis: It is totally the piece. The title comes at the end, depending on the final result. Usually, I want my titles to guide the spectator without saying too much.
HM: What’s really striking about them is the crazy color palette going on. I read somewhere that you used to study makeup. Does that at all influence your choice in color?
MCM: I don’t think my makeup studies really influenced my color palette. I have always drawn and painted very colorfully. In fact, it is a lot more difficult for me to have a more selective color palette. I have difficulty choosing between all the pretty colors, so often I put them all on.
HM: While we’re on the topic of color, what is the significance, if any, of the blue eyes in most of your people in each piece?
MCM: There isn’t really any specific meaning. I think it’s mostly because shades of blue and green pop more. It seems like lighter eyes have a little more expression in them, but brown eyes are pretty too!
Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, Trash la vie
HM: Since 2005, you’ve had several solo shows. What would you say has evolved about your work from then until now? Is there a specific focus to each piece?
MCM: My work has definitely evolved since 2005, mostly on a technical level. I still portrait some of the same subjects but I try to go outside the box a lot more now. I try to create more contrasts with different techniques, like more gestural backgrounds and more realistic characters.
HM: The settings for your characters are often scene stealers. Where does your imagery come from?
MCM: My work is an account of the everyday world in which I live. It illustrates the lifestyle and the imagination of people of my generation and especially of those that evolve around me. My work questions human responses, the intimacy of daily life and the uniqueness of each individual. Painting allows me to play with characters and locations to create familiar scenes in which we can identify ourselves. By creating stagings through photo montages, I create each of my projects on the computer, and then I do it manually on the canvas. This way of working is, for me, a right balance between technology and traditional. We can find in my works references to the people of my generation, fashion, illustration, advertising, design, to the city, graffiti, tattooing, etc.
HM: Some of your pieces peer into such intimate moments; are we meant to be voyeurs of the lifestyles reflected or of the reactions of your subjects?
MCM: These days, I think we are more voyeuristic. We watch reality shows, we look at a person’s Facebook profile even if we don’t really talk them, etc. So, yes this sense of voyeurism could be applied to my paintings, mostly those about a couple’s interactions, but in general I think it’s more about showing those awkward situations in the everyday life that will make you smile rather than those that will make you blush and cringe.
Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, I can see through you
HM: You recently had a photo exhibition called ‘Tandem’ in which you and your boyfriend examined life as a couple by recreating daily scenes. You’d set up a scene, and then both take a series of photos. He turned the images into a photographic series, while you transformed your shots into paintings. What’s interesting is that very ordinary things are being displayed here – making out, doing laundry, arguing – yet you both express a very different take on the moment. Your work seems to have this prevailing theme of peeking into the life of others. Was this collaboration a natural evolution from looking into your subjects’ lives to some introspection of your own?
MCM: This exhibition was really a representation of a couple’s life in general. To get to those images, we both looked at our own experience or the experience of those around us. The models were not necessarily couples in real life, but actors for our project.
HM: Did you find one medium stronger than the other?
MCM: I think both mediums have different reasons for being there, but I think the paintings were a little more dominant because of the close-ups and the exaggerated expressions of the characters. As for the photos, they were impressive because of the general ambiance in them.
Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, First Date
HM: I’m always interested to know who artists think buys their pieces. What type of person do you think purchases your work?
MCM: The majority of buyers are people in their twenties or thirties. I think more often then not, it’s people who are similar to me, but I’m sure there are exceptions. One of my paintings was bought by a gentleman in his fifties who thought the background of the painting resembled the acres of his land. Clearly, my artwork speaks to everyone differently.
HM: Let’s get a bit voyeuristic. When you’re painting, what type of vibe do you create for yourself? Do you work in silence? Are you rocking out to your favorite band?
MCM: I love this question! Honestly, it’s different each day. Most of the time I like working in silence and thinking, but sometimes I need to go a little bit crazy and put on some music. I’m really not a glamorous artist when I’m painting. I’m in my underwear or pajamas (it depends if my neighbor is on his balcony or not) with dirty hair and paint on my forehead.