Isabelle Brodeur: Abstraction, Capturing the Moment and Hong Kong's Art Scene


Purple Haze, 2012. Oil on canvas. 92 x 122 cm, £800

In one sentence describe what you do.

I paint abstract art which reflect moments of my life.

Why painting?

I like playing with colour and have explored many techniques, styles, and mediums; eventually I found painting to be the best one for me. Painting and abstraction are things that I related with very early on in my career as an artist.

How long have you been an artist?

I enjoyed art at a very early age, but I really got into painting in high school. That was when I bought my first canvas and paint to play around with. It has always been there throughout my life, but not always necessarily in the foreground.

Did you go to art school?

I studied a visual arts degree at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. I explored digital art, print, sculpture and it was a lot of fun, but my passion never stopped being painting.

Paint is your medium, let’s talk a little about your subject.

Generally, my process starts with a situation or a moment in my life; an idea that stays with me and needs developing. The inspiration can come from very little and a lot of what happens next occurs naturally in response to what I am painting. As I develop my canvas I work with the sensations of that moment. I like it when I see something that I wasn’t expecting which leads me in a different direction.

Travel has always been a good source of inspiration for me, for example, seeing the Hong Kong cityscape with its amazing colours. I had intense feelings in that moment and wanted to represent them. I write things down a lot to capture these moments, so when I start creating I can refer to my notes; if I didn’t a lot of my ideas would be lost.

Have you been influenced by the work of other artists?

Yes, Jean-Paul Riopelle, a French Canadian painter, had a strong influence on me as he works almost exclusively with a palette knife, and that’s the thing about me, for many years I have been working exclusively with a palette knife.

Is that to bring out the textural qualities in your paintings?

Yes, to bring out the dimensionality and thickness, which I enjoy and love. Another inspiration is Jackson Pollock, for his unique style of expression which I have never tried, but have always thought ‘oh my god, I would love to!’

What do you think has been the most pivotal moment in your art career so far?

Probably the time I spent in Hong Kong, it offered me two great things. Firstly, a place to get extremely inspired by all that was happening culturally and visually; there was a lot to reflect on. Secondly, it was a place where I could create easily and where people were interested in art on a different level; it is very different to what you see in New York or London.

Why is that?

What is interesting is that Hong Kong is a very financial place and art is seen very differently by Chinese people. Here in London it’s part of the culture, people are open about it and they see it as a way of taking you somewhere else. In Hong Kong it is like a financial thing, you have lawyers, bankers and they see art as a status symbol, but the artists there have a message in their work too and they are great! There seems to be this clash between the two worlds, which is very interesting.

As a foreign artist arriving in Hong Kong with my own ideas and ways of thinking I got noticed. It was an amazing place for me because it allowed me to create and be really inspired, but also gave me the opportunity to sell and have an audience that was interested in what I was doing; it worked really well. My most successful exhibition took place in Hong Kong in 2011.

Do you remain in contact with the galleries out there?

I do and I would love to go back and exhibit, but logistically it is a bit complicated. I still have a lot of buyers there who are interested in what I do.

I was also in New York for several years where I did a masters in arts education, as I want to take my knowledge and experience into either museum education or arts education. After my masters I went to Boston to some summer sessions to develop new skills and have fun.

It sounds like travel plays an important part in what you do, going to different places, getting inspiration and exploring new techniques. What are your hopes for the future in your art?

Separation, 2012. Oil on canvas. 122 x 92 cm. £800

Well I would like to be seen a bit more, but I think I need to be a bit more productive. That is the main point isn’t it? One brings the other. As you start to showcase this leads to comments and interest, which give you the drive to produce more and get back into it. I definitely need to get back into it, I am ready to create!

If you had any tips to any young artist what would you say?

If you want to sell professionally then it can be a long road ahead. You need to be a bit lucky and meet the right people. I would say get out there, talk to people and show your pieces as much as possible. Eventually you will meet the right people and the right buyers, one thing will lead to an other. I don’t think there is a magic trick, just be open and sincere about what you do and if you enjoy doing it then don’t quit. For a long time, I was painting and producing until eventually I had no more room to keep my artworks, so I decided I needed to organise an exhibition and I did a show by myself. You need to be resourceful and you will find the right way!

Isabelle will be displaying her paintings in our first exhibition of 2017 The Spring Collection 28th Feb - 4th March at the Menier Gallery.