Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Local printmaker’s art heads abroad

by Glen Hartle
Green Lake
Feb. 20, 2024
The first thing you notice when you sit with local artist Louise Guay is her humility. Hers is not a tale of self-promotion. Quite the contrary; hers is a very real story in a very real world where her modesty and enthusiasm invite you to linger over her very real artistic glow, even while you sense that she is surprised at the interest.
Guay admits that art was not always her calling, nor did she even believe that she had an artistic flair other than that which she might have demonstrated via knitting or crafts. While her mother, a painter, and sister, a graduate from an arts program at a university in Montreal, exhibited talent, she was want to see it in herself.
It wasn’t until she retired in 2011 that she gave in to a friend’s insistence that she try art. That friend, Thorne resident Valerie Bridgeman, was no stranger to an artist’s journey, herself having long been actively involved with local art association artPontiac while balancing her time as a teacher at Pontiac High School. And what better vote of confidence than from a friendly source in whom there was also merit? Guay was convinced.
Now, her career was one not entirely devoid of art but one where she worked with creativity from an observer’s and curator’s standpoint. Guay worked in communications and, as such, was heavily involved with websites and their content at a time when the internet was just taking hold, and what better archetype for the possible than to see how seeds of data can become forests of information. The last 10 years of her career saw Guay at the National Archives of Canada where she focused on helping to publish research on communications. If you can still find her book on famed Canadian photojournalist Kryn Taconis, the preface to that book offers a hint to, or maybe even a part of, Guay’s artistic journey: “Photography has contributed to a new approach to reality: that of seizing an elusive moment and capturing it for posterity.”
Retirement was finally a time to afford her love of observation more space and provide opportunity for her to capture moments in her own way.
At this herald, Guay embarked upon a discovery of self and of ability, and a nascent relationship with print making unfurled. While she tried various other forms of artistic expression, she landed on print making and dove right in, taking course after course through artPontiac and via the guiding hand of the very talented artist and instructor, Rob Hinchley.
Fast forward to the present and Guay hasn’t lost any of the headiness that first brought her creativity to bear. “There are so many ways to work with your plate, the possibilities are enormous,” she gushes while showing a thin aluminum rectangle roughly the size of a piece of paper upon which one can see and feel raised edges, marks, smudges and indentations. “And just feel this paper – it’s Japanese,” she continues while unsheathing a collection of clearly treasured substrates destined for future endeavours.
“I love to play with forms and colours; the beauty of them attract me,” says Guay, who self-identifies as an abstract artist. The description of her process lies closely to that of the neurographic artist whereby elements of the subconscious are tapped and made manifest, and it is the very suppleness of printmaking which lends itself well to Guay’s tapestry-like layering of her inner voice.
It is easy to get swept away with Guay’s excitement at both her past experiences and those yet to come. In the intervening years from artistic baby steps to today, she has accumulated an impressive roster of milestones, achievements and creative output. She is equally buoyant when speaking of having made prints on the streets of Shawville beneath the weight of a steamroller and of her soon-to-be-realized dream of exhibiting abroad.
It is this latter which brings a glint of the possible to Guay’s eye. And, in a tale true to her insistence that her relationship with art is heavily influenced by connections with the people in her life, so emerged the opportunity of showcasing her art in an upcoming exhibition in Belgium next year.
“My brother’s friend had a friend who had a daughter who was a friend of my sister, and she saw my art,” recounts Guay. Like her prints, that’s a fair amount of layering and is seemingly synchronous with the abstraction with which Guay delights.
“It’s not as easy in other places for artists to gain exposure,” suggests Guay, while extolling the opportunity now before her. “It will be fascinating to be in such an international group and getting to know more printmakers and techniques.”
For Guay, the anticipation building for the Belgian exhibition in Feb. 2025 is nearly all-consuming. But, for the moment, she is content with her ongoing journey into art and wryly hints that she is just getting started.


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