Lyse Lemieux at Wil Aballe Art Projects, Vancouver
By Justina Bohach
Lyse Lemieux and I sat in her studio one sunny morning and spoke about dreams and Greek myths, about her preoccupation with legs and how this might relate to her interest in verticality, embodiment, and the process of aging. We talked about the art community in Vancouver that was, and that is. We shared thoughts about childhood, memories, and the importance of a person’s character. We acknowledged the warm, celebratory energy at her recent opening. We discussed her practice, the connection of her public art projects to her other artwork, and the ways they inform each other. She mentioned influences, such as Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Bourgeois, Silvia Bächli, and Miriam Cahn as well as Robert Rauschenberg’s performative handling of fabric and collage. She explained her joy in painting and of being inside the colours. She described her appreciation of disjointed and disparate narratives. All of a sudden almost three hours had gone by.
Afterwards, I realized that the weaving of this conversation and its vibrancy was like a synaesthetic echo of her exhibition Painted Drawings at Wil Aballe Art Projects. The gallery is full of colourful poster-size works on paper mounted to float slightly away from the wall. At times, they are double-hung along the length of the gallery, giving the walls a quilt-like quality. Looking at the individual works, it is easy to imagine Lemieux playing with the layers and textures. Working through patterns and shapes. Glue, felt, stitch, paint.
Amid legs and other recognizable body parts are undefined, aquatic-like creatures. Sometimes there are lines and curves that are two-dimensional descriptions of form and texture, but whose jumps, twists, and turns become three-dimensional when drawn with scissors. Lemieux’s work has a long history of sitting between abstraction and figuration, and here we see horizontal landscape influences as well. The stories in her poetic markings keep the eye moving, allowing viewers to make their own connections between each depiction. Her titles are just as animated and provide clues to her thought process for each piece: 1956, The Flicker’s Name was Le Black, Footless Archbishop, VANCOUVER, Vancouver….
For this exhibition, Lemieux invited Vancouver-based, Kenyan-born poet Juliane Okot Bitek to present two parallel texts. In one of her poems, Bitek captures the vibrant interplay of Lemieux’s work and personality, which she sees refracted from the surface of these painted drawings: “Sometimes I’m awake & I think about paper / other times I think about how your laughter bounces back from the sky / & splinters into shards of light onto the page before me.”
Justina Bohach facilitates various modes of cultural production within contemporary art. She has published with Blonde Art Books, The Mainlander, C Magazine, and Canadian Art. She is currently part of the curatorial team at the Vancouver Art Gallery. She can be followed on Instagram @then.on.second.thought.