At first glance, my works have the aspect of paintings, panoramas of natural splendor suggesting a classic Baroque style. Upon closer observation, however, it is revealed that the technique behind the works is in fact digital hypercollage. Each composition is an assembly of elements taken from hundreds of photographs.
I strive to create visual environments in which the viewer can become immersed, finding there a place of sanctuary and enrichment, of tranquility infused with gentle, optimistic energy. I am convinced of the potency of the living world around us — its power to inspire, strengthen and heal — and have devoted myself to capturing its essence and transmitting it to others as effectively as I can.
Fifteen years of experience in the advertising industry, during which I developed proficiencies in digital graphics and design, were followed by eight years of rigorous training in traditional oil painting. These skill sets both clearly inform the technical aspects of my practice. My intentions, however, are more deeply rooted, reaching back to my childhood.
During my early years, my family frequently spent time at our cottage in northern Quebec. Given the liberty to roam and explore through the vast wilderness that surrounded us, I was able to immerse myself in it, to marvel at its complexity and diversity, and to fully appreciate its beauty and power.
Those formative experiences are echoed each time I set out on one of the photographic expeditions through which I gather the raw materials for my practice. Placing myself in a distinctive natural locale for an extended period of time, I devote myself to thoroughly documenting the specific flora and fauna found there. My interest, however, is not scientific, but rather aesthetic. I strive to capture the essence of each element I photograph — the appearance, but also the subtle energy each item is imbued with.
I have accumulated thousands of photographs in my personal image bank, from a wide diversity of settings. This constantly expanding reservoir of ingredients, which I look forward to replenishing indefinitely, permits me an ever-increasing palette of color, texture and resonance.
Upon returning to my studio with the images I have gathered, I embark on a process that is both painstakingly meticulous and wildly intuitive. Resisting premeditation and calculation, I begin each composition as a blank digital canvas. Exploring the photographic materials I have at hand, I allow particular elements to catch my eye, isolating and extracting them digitally, and placing them one by one within the canvas.
As the selection of elements for each work grows, I devote long hours to placing each one and adjusting its lighting and visual properties. A perfect balance and synergy are gradually achieved. The theme of the work reveals itself to me. Reflecting the positive and admiring relationship I enjoy with nature, I allow it to tell its own story, to fully express itself as it intends to. I understand myself merely as a conduit, a vessel in this process.
My calling as an artist, therefore, is to bring forth visions of resplendent beauty, to imagine wonderful other worlds and share them, knowing that they are not fantasies at all, but invocations of nature’s essential truths.
YSABEL LEMAY 2015