Claude Le Blanc, The freedom to create

Roche Bobois

“For me, freedom was an absolute necessity, not a privilege!” Claude Le Blanc finally gave himself this freedom when he turned 40 – the day he decided he was done with the retail business, and was ready to make art his life’s principal focus.

The grandson of a jeweller, and son of a Fine Arts graduate, Claude was naturally drawn towards an arts education, despite his father’s protest. But life happens, and he found himself in retail, where he worked for nearly 20 years. However, his overwhelming desire for art and creativity, and the quest for precious inner peace and balance would ultimately force his hand. It is now 23 years since his intense need to paint led him to make the critical decision that changed his destiny.

Claude spoke to me from Florida, where he has been travelling for about five months. He went there in search of warmer climes, but also to live in symbiosis with the nature that inspires him. His studio in the Chat des artistes building in Montreal restricted his creative flow, as he craved open space. He told me he has crossed the Everglades at least seven times, and never ceases to marvel at the abundant beauty. Marie-Andrée Couture shares his life; she, too, is an artist, and is an enthusiastic partner in his nomadic, creative process.

Claude travels in a small truck that serves as both a studio and living space. His pilgrimage takes him to the galleries that show his work in Florida. He stopped for a few days at one of them and indulged in the pleasure of painting in the gallery gardens, to the great delight of the clients who came to meet him. When he is on the road, Claude sometimes works with acrylics, which come with their own particular rules, drying more quickly and creating a different effect. Most often he paints in oil on wood.

From his imagination emerges images and colours that begin in abstraction. With each successive layer, he constructs and deconstructs the work, using spatulas and rudimentary tools. His paintings remain in constant flux until the moment they leave the studio, or wherever he has created them.

At any moment, he is likely to make changes, to scratch the wood, allowing for accidents, over-painting something he is not happy with. He likes the evolution of a work to be apparent, wanting viewers to see an obvious layering of colour. This particular style, these traces, this creative energy, are the core of his work, his research, and his lifelong quest for authenticity and simplicity.

He stops only when something magical happens – when the painting comes to life, when it tells the story of how it came to be. Boats are a recurring motif, a symbolic reminder of the passage from one shore to another, from one life to another. But most of all, they are a pretext for painting and writing, just as water allows him to play with reflections.

He investigates light, contrast, and colour, describing them as vibrations capable of illuminating people. Used judiciously, they stimulate the viewer, and provoke a wide range of emotional responses. The light in his paintings often evoke his memories, moments captured throughout his travels, from dawn on a quiet marsh, or a blazing sunset over a lake in Naples, alive with intensity. Each painting is a testament to his story, his life, his choice to be free.

Claude Leblanc’s work can be seen in Montreal at Galerie MX, 333 rue Viger ouest.

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Roche Bobois

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