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Neither method nor procedure counts in art. Practice is the answer. We learn by doing the work. If we had only to follow a particular method, all invention, all creativity, would be lost. We would have learned “how” but not “what” to do.

Each of my paintings is a new adventure into the imagination, a place that has nothing to do with the previous one.

I am under the impression that I am working on the canvas much like a novel, constantly proofreading and rewriting. To paint the ground sloping toward you… this is quite a challenge. To place a colour on the canvas and to paint another over it creates depth.

On the water, in a kayak, we observe the sky a great deal. The many layers of clouds in movement are very complex, are so unexpected, are the most magnificent organization of forms. A painting is an equation. The larger it is, the more it increases in number.

The invention of images comes from across the reach of time, from the earth’s depths, from the bottom of one’s heart, from the recesses of childhood and that of ancestry. That is the real life experience, often tragic because one tends to remember the darkest moments rather than the happiest. That is the tapestry of life: sadness, joy, drama, which expresses itself as something that bears the marks of these emotions. These works are always incomplete but life continues, as does self-knowledge.

A painting keeps its secrets. We discover them, one by one, sometimes long after we thought the work was done.
The work is never done.

Suzanne Olivier

Our planet is the only subject of my painting

I paint tranquil valleys and volcanic eruptions, droughts, scorching suns, somber atmospheres, rumbling from beneath the ground, days on fire, arid mountains, wetlands and harsh climates… the earth as I feel it vibrate, the planet inhabits me with its vital force above and beyond time.

“The earth in all its states” has been the title and theme of numerous exhibitions I have had over the years. This title expresses my constant search to transmit the emotional power I feel from the earth beyond time and space.

I refer to the act of painting these sensations of geological phenomena – enchanting and celebratory or full of planetary turmoil – as geo-picturalism, a fusion with nature which defines my creation.

Suzanne Olivier
August 2015

Chinese proverb: To paint a tree, begin by allowing it to grow within you.

My working method is to begin by making a brush stroke or mark on the canvas or paper surface. Whatever image emerges, my main concern is to maintain a sense of harmony and balance in the composition. I do not begin with a subject in mind, but rather I let it develop and guide me as I work. Thus, the image comes from within. At some point, I pause and contemplate the direction of the work. The marks and lines that I create always lead toward the landscape – an unfamiliar place, which resides deep within me. The sole reference point is the horizon. I like to draw an uneven undulating terrain to depict the daily upheavals that occur on the planet and which preoccupy me. As for color, it suggests itself. It reflects the seasonal moods and, in this way, these landscapes change with the seasons, just as I do.

I have always preferred to let the image suggest itself. It has often shown me the universe.

“This is the secret path, a step that ventures forth toward the unknown self.” P Courthion


The following is an overview of my artistic approach which began in the late 1950s when my interest in the visual arts became clear.

Having grown up under the influence of the automatist movement in Quebec, my every thought and dream was impregnated with the spontaneous, gestural approach carved out by Borduas and the other artists proclaiming the “Refus global”. I enthusiastically began my first charcoal sketches.

As my pictorial personality developed and my search intensified during my years at the Beaux-Arts in Montreal, I returned to and continued this movement and manner of painting, suggesting elements of nature on my canvas. This new approach transformed my work into imaginary landscapes, liberated from tradition and representation.

The initial principle of abstraction allowed the creation and development of an image into an organized and coherent whole, combining balance and detail, generating the sense of a more approachable universe, while remaining firmly grounded.

I have often been associated with the impressionists due to the soft touch and colour in my treatment. But this is erroneous; I invent and develop the canvas using random forms and movements and never work from observation or memory.

Drawing and colour serve to generate perspective, adding depth and the three-dimensional quality of our perception of the universe.

While continuing to use the infinitely rich and seductive traditional oil painting technique with all the possibilities it offers, in renewing this approach, I seek to give a more humane and developed dimension to lyrical abstraction.

Suzanne Olivier