Photo: Jeff Malo, 2017

Article in La Presse: The Urgency to Create

On August 10th, 2022, Éric Clément, the journalist covering the visual arts for La Presse, published a lengthy article on my work. You can read it in French by clicking here. Below is my homemade English translation made available here for those who don't read French.

His portraits sell like hot cakes all over the world. They’re chosen as book covers in Canada, Germany, Belgium and Argentina.

The Laval painter Mathieu Laca, who’s exhibiting this summer in six venues in Quebec and Ontario, carved his way for 23 years, thanks to the internet and a few galleries. La Presse met the artist in his studio.

Frida Kahlo, a wildly strong and free woman artist painted in soft tones.

Frida Kahlo, oil on linen, 36X30 inches, 2016, private collection.

The Importance of School

If Mathieu Laca, now 40 years old, is a painter, it’s largely due to two high school teachers. His French teacher Jean Comeau took him under his wing when he needed it, along with Rachel Villeneuve, his visual arts teacher. He was 17 and studying at the Curé-Antoine-Labelle High School in Laval. Brilliant competitor in the game Génies en herbe, he found a haven in literature and could have become an astronaut. “But when I discovered art, I realized I didn’t need to get outstanding grades in math anymore, he says. I went to study visual arts at the Collège Lionel-Groulx in Sainte-Thérèse and then I followed through with a bachelor’s degree at Concordia University.”

Since then, he never stopped. He created installations, tried abstract expressionism. Later on he painted intense, sometimes provocative figuration. For instance the Porn is not Art series exhibited at the Patrick John Mills Contemporary Fine Art Gallery in 2011. With his unconventional style, he finally focused on portraits of artists in thick but controlled oil paint impastos. His process is reminiscent of Marion Wagschal, whom he met while at Concordia.

He paints from photos, mainly musicians and writers, having more affinities with the musical and literary world than with the visual arts world.

“I also choose people with interesting heads, like Samuel Beckett, he says. The resemblance is just a starting point. I love to allude to their works and their psyche.”

Busy Year

Ukrainian Resistance, oil on linen, 53"X72", 2022. Photo: Guy L'Heureux

Big year 2022 for Mathieu Laca with four group exhibitions in Quebec. XL5, a show of large works at the Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal until August 14th. His painting offers a tribute to Ukraine after he was shaken by the Russian invasion and the controversial declarations of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch about homosexuality. “The proceeds of the sale of this work will be donated to a Ukrainian NGO”, he says.

He’s part of the show Battements presented at the Centre National d’Exposition in Jonquière until August 21st. He’s also in Collectif 2 at the TNT Gallery in Quebec City until September 2nd and in another group show at the Salon Art Club in Montreal right now. Not to mention that several of his works are exhibited at the Thompson Landry Gallery in Toronto and at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa. “Simultaneously present in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Jonquière. I harvest what I sowed.”


A long time reader and writer — young, he thought about studying in the arts and literature program — Mathieu Laca is fulfilling a dream. This winter, he will publish his first novel, L’invention d’un visage (The Invention of a Face). A story planned with the precious help from Jean Barbe.

“I continue to pinch myself because I still don’t believe I did it, he says. It talks about painting and a rare disorder called prosopagnosia, the difficulty or incapacity to recognize a face.”

Mathieu Laca painted a work to represent a portrait described in his novel. This portrait will also be on the cover of the book.

Portrait created for the cover of L'invention d'un visage

The confinement has also been positive for him because he wrote a lot and sold plenty of works during the pandemic.

“I sold 60 paintings in a year through my website, mainly older pieces. My basement was cleared out! Currently, I’m still living off the stash I made.”

The prices of Mathieu Laca’s works range from 2000$ to 20000$. He has collectors worldwide. Some buy his works regularly. Among his clients, let’s mention the actor Josh Brolin, writers Colin Broderick and Michel Tremblay, along with the comedian Marc Labrèche.

His Studio

Mathieu Laca’s studio is on the ground level of his Laval residence. He works there from 9 to 5, five days a week. “But recently, I write in the morning and paint in the afternoon, he says. I’ve been painting for over 20 years and I think I have more fun than in the beginning. The more craft you possess, the easier the ideas come. You strike one touch and you know what to expect. I never went through a long period of time without painting. So this continuity fuels me.”

Photo by Scott Martin, 2020

Colin Broderick with his portrait of Samuel Beckett

Not long ago, Mathieu Laca returned to charcoal. We saw a few drawings in his studio, some of his husband Jean. His studies and preliminary sketches for his paintings are delicate and expressive.

“I love to dig the surface, accumulate strokes, fade the light and build volumes to make faces appear, he writes in his newsletter. A charcoal stick is just a twig of burnt wood. Yet what we can pull out of it in terms of nuances just blows me away! And I find the sobriety of the black and white downright sumptuous.”

Study for Jean IV, charcoal on paper, 24"X18", 2022 

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