In the studio with Manuel Bisson whose practice focuses whose practice explores a mix of abstraction and neo-surrealism or something in between. We met with Manuel to tell us more about growing up in the the suburbs of Montreal, their greatest influences, and Manuel's unexpected sources of inspiration.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
I was in my early twenties and I was hanging out with street gangs back then, with no plan of any future in my mind. Then I decided to get a job. That’s where I met my best friend. She was studying at university and it inspired me to do the same, so I enrolled myself in a visual arts program and knew instantly that it was what I wanna do in life.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I come from a suburb called Laval, not really far from the big city of Montreal. So my playground was parted in two, I was shuffling between these two places. I quit school when i was 15 years old, that’s when i started to hang out with street gangs. I think that maybe it tinted my work, much at the beginning, when i used a lot of spray paint. That reminds me of the world of grafs and tags from which I came from.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?
At the beginning, I was trying to eject myself from the streets, where I was such a delinquent, I was trying to reach for a better life. I tried art and that was it, it was the only thing that was keeping my mind busy and focused on positive things. That was the debut of a new era for me, I left everything behind.
What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?
I mostly do abstract painting, what that leaves much to interpretation, and i like it. But since a few years, i started to add a pinch of figurative in my work. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic or what, but maybe I feel that I have to add some kind of a narrative speech. I love landscapes, I love mysteries, I love surrealism. Maybe I’m doing a mix of abstraction and neo surrealism or something in between.
Who/what are your greatest influences?
At the very beginning, what I liked the most was the architectural aspect in art, like the Bauhaus school. It’s still there, but in a different way. What I like now about what influences me first is the organization behind the architecture. I left the straight lines behind but my paintings are really organized.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
Everyday life, isolated details, sounds, light, plant world…
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
Not really. When I’m painting, nothing else matters, it’s like a vortex and I love that sensation. But yes, when I take a distance from work, I ask myself what others can see through it. Can the painting speak by it self ? Does it have to say something ? Well sometimes yes and sometimes no. I like to think that art doesn’t have to serve something. I like to leave a blurry sensation.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you experiment?
Yes, I experiment a lot, I think that is what keeps me creative and daring. I really have to try different things frequently because otherwise I get bored. And like i said before, the pandemic was a good time for trying things, time was stretched and everything feels like an eternity.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
I don’t think that we can decide when is a good moment, but i love to be alone very early and on a rainy day at my studio, it feels like everything is possible. And some other times, I run in the studio for a couple of hours only and everything takes its place really quickly, and then I have a good piece.
Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?
For example, all the series of The Games We Play evoke the way we interact with one another ; the things we hide or display to other people’s view. It’s an analogy between game board and social behavior.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I want to go further on everything that is blurred. I love it when I’m in front of an art piece and that it’s hard to figure out the meaning.