Alexandra Levasseur’s whimsical scenes of contemplative women burst with dripping flora, engulfing you in hues of airy pinks and soft blues. A background in fine art, graphic design, and illustration has led the artist to develop an incredibly unique style with an irresistible palette. Drawing inspiration from biology, poetry, and theories of multiple dimensions, Levasseur uses a combination of collage, acrylic and oil paint to create new geological narratives in her compositions. Although the characters in her paintings often find themselves surrounded by lush and scenic wildlife, there seems to be an undeniable atmosphere of melancholia present in her work. The intensity and focus placed on the faces of these women create a tension between the bizarre beauty of her otherworldly landscapes and the anxiety exhibited in her characters. There is an unspoken shared sense of apprehension between the subjects in her work that can be felt as their gaze often diverts away from the viewer, lost in their own thoughts. (text by Christina Nafziger for ArtMaze Mag)
We were granted an opportunity to engage in a conversation with Alexandra about her work and inspiration.
AMM: Hi Alexandra! Let’s start our conversation with a little introduction from you. What is your background? Tell us what brought you into the world of art?
AL: Hi 🙂 ! I have always been interested in visual art since I have memory. My grandmother was a painter and she introduced me to the work of French Symbolists at an early age. Later, I studied Fine Arts in Costa Rica where I lived from 2000 to 2010 with an interlude of a year in Barcelona where I did a postgraduate in illustration (2008). I have worked as art director in advertising agencies in Costa Rica for a couple of years. Then, back to Montreal in 2010, I’ve been studying Film Animation, working as an illustrator and on my painting. I was represented by Galerie Roccia in Montreal from 2012 to 2015. I’m now working with Galerie C.O.A. also in Montreal.
AMM: What were your earliest experiences in producing art? How did you start out and was it difficult at all when you were searching for your artistic voice?
AL: I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child. I have never left doing it. Art school gave me space to explore styles and techniques, and a sense of career, but I think finding my artistic voice has been a long smooth process over the last 30 years. It came naturally and it is still evolving.
AMM: Could you describe the subject matter and contents of your work and which medium do you work with? How do you come up with ideas for the scenes in your paintings? Do you use photographic references or are your paintings coming purely from imagination?
AL: I get inspiration from scientific readings (biology and physics) and I do my own iconic interpretation of facts and theories, but also from films and poetry. I often start with a background. I build collages from photographs and textures that matter to me. I do the same with the figures, I look for positions of body that convey the message I want to express and I construct the composition. I used to do that step on paper with magazine paper cuts, but lately I’ve been using the computer to facilitate the process. Once I’m set on the composition and color palette, I start working on the larger support with acrylic, oil and pencils mostly.
AMM: Who are the figures in your paintings?
AL: The representation of women in my work serves me as a universal symbol to illustrate an array of human emotions. My work being in part autobiographical, the feminine figures in it naturally satisfy my need to express the anxiety and struggle to understand our short life on earth and find a real powerful meaning to it.
AMM: Most of your works feature females with dream-like auras and blurred facial expressions. Could you tell us more about where the feel/vibe of your works come from?
AL: I like the idea that our only five human-being senses are limiting us to perceive so much more. I often imagine that if humans had no eyes, everything would work totally differently, but the Earth, trees and sky would still be there. What if we were missing something as big as sight because of a missing sense? I love that the string theory proposes that we live in a world with 11 dimensions. (10 space-dimensions + 1 time-dimension) but as human beings we can’t perceive them. Painting the “absence”, serves my intention to illustrate problems like the antagonism of matter and consciousness, the representation of life and death and of the real and unreal.
AMM: Could you name one quote or piece of advice that helped you throughout your artistic career?
AL: Be authentic and have fun.
AMM: Over the years how have you navigated your place in the art world?
AL: I try to work everyday on my projects. Consistency is key.
AMM: Apart from painting, what are your favorite activities in life?
AL: Yoga, ballet dancing, music, travelling, play with my dogs and reading.
AMM: If there was a magic power you could use in your art making, what would it be?
AL: May the oil paint tubes last forever, and the pencils never break, and the paper never wrinkle when I glue it on a wood panel.
AMM: What are your plans for art and life? Is there anything exciting coming your way?
AL: I’m working on very large format paintings, which is something that I wanted to do for some time. I’m also working on my new animated film, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and it is really motivating. Also, my work has been selected as part of two exhibitions: Bitter / Sweet, at 19 Karen Gallery, Gold Coast, Australia, March 18th and Muscle Memory, at Athen B. Gallery, Oakland, California, April 15th.
Find out more about Alexandra’s work: www.alexandralevasseur.com
Introduction text by by Christina Nafziger for ArtMaze Mag.