Artistic statement

My art practice visually challenges and explores the notion of physical and mental transformation that every individual lives daily. How does the body react to emotion and energy? How do we express empathy? Emanate courage? Ooze desire? How do these internal and interpersonal exchanges etch themselves in the very contours of our flesh, our vital organs, our brains?

Acutely aware of my context as a painter creating work in the space between figurative and abstract convention, I work primarily in acrylics and am guided by gesture, rhythm, and music. These movements allow me to visually manifest the fields of attraction that reverberate within human relationships. In one of my latest bodies of work, I have taken my initial inspiration from the characters of Italian Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces whose universal themes of deception, hope, and innocence continue to be relevant: Caravaggio’s Cardsharps (1595) and The Taking of Christ (1605).

I often begin my work by writing spontaneously, almost priming the raw surface with stream of consciousness text that focuses on transformation. For me, the words are like staffs on blank pages of sheet music. Upon this foundation, I paint with layers of acrylic glazes. Formally trained as a musician and a visual artist, both music and text give structured purpose and depth to my work, enabling me to move beyond the mere depiction of scenarios.

Through addressing such weighty ideas as hypocrisy, betrayal, and jagged interpersonal relationships – sometimes along a feminist trajectory – transformation keeps the possibilities optimistic. My paintings emerge as a complex mediation of how human beings are buffeted and changed by the energy within and around them.

Project description: Peace in this Chaos

Focus: Overcoming Conflict

Conflict is everywhere. Everywhere around us, everywhere inside of us. This universal phenomenon generates a tension that the human being must live through every day. What is this tension? What form does it take in daily life? How can we translate into an image the resilience we need in this time of upheaval?

Close to us, one can note the record number of suicides, the increase in the consumption of anti-depressants, the instability of intimate relationships, the shattering of families. Humanity is being tested with refugees, terrorist attacks, and armed conflicts.

Beginning with live models, I draw and paint bodies positioned so as to express, on one hand, the difficulty of living in this chaos, and on the other, hope, empathy and solidarity. My brush is simultaneously a sword to fight this disorder, and a scalpel to dissect internal torment. I scrutinize the interior of the humans within my scene: the movement of their emotions and doubts, the structure of their inner strength, the intensity of their suffering, the complexity of their questioning, their symbiotic connection with their environment.

For example, in the painting Peace in this Chaos, the shapes that are painted in the body of the human evoke rocks, yet those same rocks are part of the surrounding chaos which envelopes them. In spite of this, a feeling of peace emanates outwards. The virginity of white paper illuminates their body, expanding until overflowing around them.

Since everything is transformation and impermanence, no character is overwhelmed or irrevocably disengaged. The beings live as many conflicts as they are able to free themselves from; they are in motion, plunged into an environment of tensions and harmony, exchanges and hope. They evolve in microcosms, each loaded with a meaning that demonstrates the complexity of the human condition as an interconnected and provisional state. The numerous experiences of this state reveal a common essence, an essence with the potential to generate solidarity.

While denouncing the negative effects of the myriad conflicts afflicting us, my works emits an effervescent force, and in this sense, creates a substantive message to convey to my contemporaries.

Project description: Les Tricheurs (The Cheats)

Focus: lack of self-awareness, hypocrisy, betrayal

A frequent impetus of my work is to bring to surface the false life that manifests to varying degrees in everyone. Though universal, it can take a different form for each individual: lack of self-awareness, deceit, cheating, betrayal, etc.

This quest drives me to the works of Renaissance and Baroque masters which revealed the richness of human nature by placing it in the centre of the universe. Humanism emerged from this time of effervescence. These paintings still reflect as much of our current affairs (corruption, repression, gender inequality) as they do our humanity (domination, aggression, solidarity, love).

In my series inspired by Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ (1605), for example, I blur the detail of the human figures and focus instead on the trajectories of brutality among them—the vector of the Roman soldiers’ aggressive projection of force, the malignant directionality of Judas Iscariot’s kiss. In my studies of Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps (1595), the cheats’ figures retreat into a dark, smoky storm of malversation and peril which swirls about the honest card player’s lamp-like, luminous face.

This series of paintings represent cynical, critical, but still optimistic meditations on hypocrisy and treachery, where actions and motives become environments as the figures’ gestures transform into elemental, storm-like forces. Because transformation permeates my work – no character is clearly male or female, perpetrator or victim — hope is available to all. The figures’ discrete entities retreat into an interplay of dynamic, moral magnetic fields, revealing the human experience as complex, interconnected, and provisional.

I attempt to respond to several questions. How is the energy released, received, absorbed? What are the ways in which it can transform? How does it enrich even if it originates from the malicious actions of others? How does it show in the physical body?

The characters I paint evolve within complex, interconnected, and provisional microclimates of the human condition, the many experiences of which reveal a common essence that could potentially lead to solidarity.


5570 rue Cartier, Montréal, H2H 1X9  – (514) 567-8255 – hl@helenelahaye.com / Copyright © 2018 Hélène La Haye. All Rights Reserved. / No further reproduction or distribution of the art works shown on this site is permitted without authorization. / Website realization TUK Agence