The start of March has seen not one, but two artists showcasing their art over at Projector gallery! Featuring the abstract sculptures and colourful, circus-related portraits of Jeremy Lewis, alongside the more earth-toned, multi-textured works of Mike Leblanc, both artists’ works perfectly contrast one another, yet fit so well together alongside each other, to bring it in as one cohesive showcase.
In regards to his different styles, Jeremy had something to say on each – his sculptures depict the beauty that he sees in destruction. Bringing together fragments and pieces of wood, rope, glass, and other various materials, the sculptures are secured together by tape marked “fragile”, possibly to denote the delicate nature of it all, or as a hidden ironic message behind each sculpture– perhaps even both.
Jeremy also dabbles in painting, which he claims isn’t his strong suit – but the way that he depicts each painting, particularly a dual-piece clown portrait (and its painted reflection), goes to show that he has a natural flair for it.
I had the pleasure to get some further insight from both artists, and here’s what each had to say:
What inspired you to become the artist that you are today, particularly in terms of your style/styles?
Michael: Since I can remember, I have been drawing or making art. I used to paint representationally, had some shows of modest success, but then got a bit discouraged and went back to the drawing board. Eventually, I figured out it’s not about whether it’s “good” or not because each person has their own perspective. Some will like it and some won’t. So it became more about the desire to create art because I wanted to, rather than trying to make something good that everyone would like. I became fascinated with the idea that when a viewer is forced to ask themselves “what am I looking at”, one can come up with all sorts of conclusions. I love the idea that any of my newer works can mean anything to someone. When I paint now, it’s much more freeing to find lines organically and render those areas and try to pull some imagery out of nothing. I’m still using techniques that a more literal painter would use; I am also just violently splashing paint on a surface when I feel it’s needed. One quote that I love, but don’t know who said it, is “listen to your art”. I try to live by that.
Jeremy: Art initially was a release for me, a creative release, to vent some pent-up creativity that was certainly being stifled by the commercial industry, in terms of my photography work. So I started painting, and it always had an emotional feel to it, I suppose you could say? And I think that’s just because I want it to be fun.
One of the things I like doing is painting with palette knives a lot, because it’s a little more difficult to control. And you can’t really see what you’re doing, so I like the idea of [applying] the paint to the palette knife, and you give the palette knife the idea, and it gives you the art. In that, I try to incorporate myself as an equal medium in terms of the canvas and the paint. I want to be a collaboration as opposed to me being the artist with this sense of authority over the outcome. I mean, granted in these pieces, that is certainly the case, but after I began painting, I went to Wales to study my MFA (Master of Fine Arts), and at that point, I became very focused on art beyond representation. And that’s where my sculpture work kind of comes in.
The intent, particularly of these sculpture pieces, is to form as broad a dialogue as possible. And what I mean by that is, it’s difficult because the work can appear esoteric at first glance, but I want to create something that is both specific, and vague enough, so a viewer can find a way to relate to it. It’s almost like a sense of trickery, I suppose. The drive behind my work is to have conversation. And, in that conversation, hopefully learning about yourself, and growing.
Of all your showcased pieces, which one(s) do you have the closest connection with, or do you resonate with most?
M: Well, I haven’t gotten around to naming any of them yet, but this one is the piece that kind of blew the doors open to the painting style I’ve adapted. There are a ton of layers going on here. Depending on the viewer, one might see a kind of floral-y piece, others may see something resembling a skull. I love the push and pull of the positive vs negative. I’ve also “sealed” some of the first marks I made and built up heavy texture in other areas, further exploring the notion of light and dark.
J: Certainly the sculpture pieces – that might be because they’re the most recent? When I work on them, I feel like I’m in the right place. It’s really funny how I‘ll build a frame for one of the pieces, or add an element, and I’ll just sit at my desk and stare at it for hours, and… just explore it.
Outside of the artwork, what else have you been working/focusing on?
M: Well, I have 2 kids, Frances and Rudy (4 years and 9 months), so they keep me pretty busy. I also play drums in a few bands (Meanwood, Rob Moir and the Great Lates, and Astrocytes).
J: Ideally, I’d like to get a job teaching. I’ve always wanted to teach. I really like the idea of interacting with people, and helping somebody develop their eye. Aside from that, since my MA, I’ve been very interested in writing as well – things like magic realism. Jorge Luis Borges is a really good example. He’s an amazing writer. I read a lot – well, I read as much as I can of art theory. And I really enjoy trying to mix critical artspeak with nonsensical bullshit. I feel like there’s a really happy medium in there. And I think that has to do with the nature of the work.
What do you have in store for the near future?
M: I’m currently reconfiguring my studio to accommodate some much larger pieces and the ability to work on several pieces at a time, while continuing to develop the style I have been honing. I will definitely try to get my work into more places, and just generally being proactive in my artistic career. This show has been a super positive experience.
J: I’d definitely like to continue with the sculpture pieces. Painting is always gonna be there. It’s great – you’ve got wood, you’ve got a canvas, you’ve got a bottle of wine … you have some fun, and you see what happens! But certainly with the sculptures, that’s what I’m focusing on next, and it’s going to potentially be a similar aesthetic. The pieces I’ve found happen to be a lot larger than these (currently showcased pieces), so I don’t know what going to happen. I’ve got a ladder, a massive lightbulb, and a bicycle seat that I’ve attached to a stick – a bamboo stick. So I don’t know… these might be massive pieces, I’m not sure – but certainly, the sculpture is what I’d like to explore.
Words by: Christian K
Christian K is a contributor for Omit Limitation currently living in Kensington Market.