A few weeks ago, I was visited in my studio by the people behind L’Artis magazine.
They drove for 3 hours to come meet me and take pictures for the cover of their February edition. It was a nice meeting.
I admire people who are dedicated like this to their passion. In their case: to promote emerging artists. They were so revolted that this painter or that singer wasn’t more recognized.
Dreaming out loud, they said they would love to drive through Canada with a RV in order to discover new pearls. I can only applaud looking at their initiatives.
The world needs more passionate and curious people like them. There are a lot of Culture bureaus in the public sector that would benefit in having just a quarter of their spirit.
Translated from French
Mathieu Laca has lived his passion for 20 years now: painting.
Shy and rather withdrawn by nature, he found a way of expression when he first put charcoals and colors in his hands. Since then, he follows the course of his imagination and creates works daily, which he exhibits and sells all over the world.
When did this adventure begin?
I discovered art in high school, especially thanks to two teachers who discovered my potential. They allowed me to do my first exhibition at the Maison des arts de Laval, in 1999. I then discovered that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
How did you manage to make a living from it?
For a few years after my baccalaureate, I really worked on my painting to find my way, and it took me a while. My work has evolved, I found a nice maturity with more nuances and a more personal style. Then I started exhibiting at festivals, in galleries and then selling my paintings.
Do you only sell in Canada?
Of course people know me more here, but with the internet, people follow me from all over the world, there are no borders. I’ve already sold to Europe, the Philippines and even China.
How do you choose your subjects?
It’s always people I admire who represent something to me, most often authors, philosophers, artists. I want to paint their faces to pay tribute to them, but also to give them a dirtier, more monstrous side. So it's a double-edged tribute! (laughs) Then when I paint their portrait, I seem to suck a little of their substance, of their genius.
How do you go about creating a portrait in your style?
I like to make a subtle wink to the work of the person I paint, for example by incorporating the atmosphere that we find in their works. When I painted Michel Tremblay, it was obvious to me that he had to be from the front, because there is no false escape in his literature. For Samuel Beckett, I played with the gray side, as if he were absorbed by the background, like a black and white monument, almost dissolved in the surface of the canvas. It fits with his work and gives an existentialist side to the portrait.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am preparing an exhibition at the Orange Gallery in Ottawa which begins in June. The theme is Van Gogh. I find the character very interesting because it symbolizes a real paradox between his colorful, wonderful works and his shitty life. So it's fascinating to represent him. I will make several portraits of him, but also reinterpret some of his works with a contemporary touch. For example, I’m going to add headphones to his famous self-portrait with a blindfold or incorporate a cellphone into the painting Les Tournesols. I love his work, but I find that there is an escalation of focus on his career at the moment so I want to put a playful side to it.
After 20 years, do you ever run out of inspiration?
I always have ideas, new things that I want to explore, whether in terms of technique or subjects. It seems that creation is self-generating in the sense that you create a first thing then finally it will take you elsewhere, make you think of something else, etc. Then when I paint commissions, it pushes me to go in directions that I would not have thought of. It feeds me. I have no problem finding ideas, the difficulty is knowing which ones to follow.
Do you have a favorite portrait that you have done?
No! It's a bit like asking a mother who her favorite child is! (laughs) My paintings all have their own lives. Some resonate more depending on the people who view them. Besides, who says that I am the best judge?
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