"After a while, a single memory transforms from a cluster of data to a sort of transparent marshmallow, from a fogless landscape to a charged theatrical backdrop. Or “more distant, less real,” as Montreal-based artist Joani Tremblay puts it. Memories get drunk, dissolve and mutate, forming relationships to other drunk, dissolved memories, assembling in the bank of miscellany from which synesthetic musings of the human mind become possible. Like, looking at something in Costa Rica that reflexively, involuntarily makes you think how you felt that day in Paris, sitting at a particular place, thinking about that thing. No explicit relationship, but some involuntary trace made.
The slaphappy, swaggering Californian artist Robert Irwin (best known for his light and landscape works), in speaking of his time in the desert said, “It suddenly just stands up and hums, it becomes beautiful, incredibly, the presence is so strong.” Tremblay brings hums from different landscapes into quiet communion on canvas. She does all her drafting digitally, testing “a million possibilities until I find this feeling of a place I was searching for, ”before sketching onto the material. Like utopias, the places in her paintings don’t exist. Utopia is necessarily, by definition, “no place”. But these paintings can be understood as sensory assemblages of places the artist has been or feels intuitively familiar with.
One sees so many images of the world over the course of a life. This enables people to fabricate understandings that may or may not have footing in reality. Somehow, by these means, the immaterial is materialized. Tremblay’s paintings speak to such perceptions of intimacy we may experience with images from across the globe: the way they find their ways to each other, the way we find our ways to them. Although the present social, political, economic and environmental conditions are so volatile that most images we see are fraught, Tremblay’s dense painterly visions, into the surreally familiar, are a testament to the wandering eye. To the slowly stirring kind of solace that become possible by letting the mind wander into different sites for life, rooms that materialize when required.
When Tremblay references traditional landscape painting—from Constable’s clouds to O’Keeffe’s New Mexico days—it’s to put canonical notions of beauty in the ring. To set the classical (which has been discarded from contemporary art discourse for its romantic excess, wide appeal and conceptual supposed paucity) alongside camouflage or cacti, is to posit a kind of before-and-after sequence—a format so beloved by the internet. A way to allude to complexity, or lost memory, quickly. Tremblay urges the viewer to mull over what is contained in the mass of time that lies between one aspect of the painting and another.
Text by Jaclyn Bruneau