I WAS ON THE ROAD AND I COULD FEEL THE COOL SENSATION OF FALL. THE GEESE IN THE SKY WERE SAYING GOODBYE… UNTIL NEXT YEAR. I STILL WONDER WHAT THEIR SECRET IS FOR ALWAYS MAKING SURE THEY LEAVE AT THE RIGHT TIME.
I get to LE LIVART, a great space for creation, and for artists’ workshops and exhibitions, right on Saint-Denis street. Sylvain Tremblay keeps his studio here, year-round. The space is white, bathed in natural soft light, and is hosting his exhibit, on now until November 18. Tremblay is talkative, friendly, energetic and full of stories, each more fantastic than the one before.
He’s been in Montreal since the early 2000s, and is already known for his Giacometti-like figures; matte textured, embossed painting covered with ultra glossy varnish. This unique style was enough to propel him into an international career. He was given access to the Opéra Galerie, and his creations are presented in exhibitions all around the world, in New York, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, London and Paris, to name just a few.
Every time he returns, he’s fascinated by the way all this travelling influences his creativity, giving him new perspectives to work with.
Tremblay chose to escape to China. After visiting, and making a few roundtrips for other exhibitions, he settled in the studio of a friend. They didn’t speak the same language, they didn’t share the same traditions and they didn’t eat the same things nor work the same way. This was all new, and you can see his passion for the colour red and a new calligraphy reflected in his work. Dubai was the next step, and this is where new inspirations emerged. The red was replaced with blue, and the sand took over his creations. Excessiveness was the key and it showed in a live performance where he created the biggest portrait of Sheikh Zayed, directly from a hot-air balloon over the desert, throwing colourful sands on an oversized canvas. He became the next sensation in the Arab media. Paintings from China and Dubai are part of his Signature series.
Tremblay participates in many exhibitions, and projects keep cropping up. He reconnects with all the great artists by teaching a class at the Canadian University of Dubai (as part of the requirements for his residency). From this experience, a series of great documentaries has stemmed, revisiting (in his own way)… Da Vinci, Degas and Warhol. He’s currently working on a number of multidisciplinary projects, to be presented while his international tour continues.
Back in Montreal, he paints a series of more figurative works. They capture life moments suspended in time. This series is easily recognized by the presence of a perspective that you don’t see in the other two. He named it Leroux, after his mother.
Tremblay told me that whenever he’s away, he paints something in his comfort zone. Like an anchor, this painting provides him the necessary courage to get out of that comfort zone to better create and evolve.
His new inspiration comes from Brooklyn, and it feels like a breath of fresh air. It was under a bridge that he was inspired when he discovered a junkyard full of irregular scrap objects with layers of worn paintings. He carefully chose his iron treasures and began a series of abstract compositions integrating these elements, which became the story in his paintings. The wooden panels are necessary to bear the weight of all that concrete, which represent architectural elements filled with history. The Brook series is born!
Tremblay has slowly discovered his groove, and is now migrating, sometimes for a season, sometimes a few years, and then is back in Montreal, only to be off again. He knows it’s the key to keeping his creative side alive.