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Julie Trudel

The RBC Canadian Painting Competition interview series

Painting by Julie Trudel
Painting and photograph courtesy of Julie Trudel Ellipses en transit MCY et CMY, du projet CMYK, acrylic and ink silkscreen on plywood (163 x 74 centimetres).

Julie Trudel has held two solo and several group exhibitions in Montreal, Quebec. She received an MFA from University of Quebec at Montreal.

Why did you pick painting as your medium?

As an abstract painter, I work with colours, without restrictions. It’s what I have the most fun doing.

Can you describe your piece that has been shortlisted for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition?

It’s a diptych—with two circular round paintings. I’m interested in colour systems and charts, and I was working with the colours used in printing: cyan, magenta, and yellow. I poured it out drop by drop.

Why focus on colour?

Colour is such a basic element in painting. There’s a colour wheel, with well-developed colour harmonies. I’m trying to avoid the usual mix of colours to achieve a visual effect that hasn’t been done before.

What works have inspired what you’re doing today?

Contemporary painters, who explore the new possibilities of paint without working with a paintbrush. Bernard Frize, a French painter from the ‘80s. He made very interesting paintings using liquid paint. Also, François Lacasse from Montreal. I’m inspired by optical art, the way colour would work in the ’60s and ’70s—painters like Bridget Riley.

Photograph courtesy of Julie Trudel
Portrait of the artist’s studio.

What challenges you outside art?

I think a lot about the screen: computer screens, cellphone screens, television. When there’s a screen in the room, we’re attracted to it—it’s catchy, there’s light. I’ve been thinking about what a painting can be, in competition with the screen.

I also like contemporary dance. You’re not looking at an image you’re looking at people moving. It triggers the senses.

Do you feel that your work goes back to certain narratives?

For sure, there’s no narrative. It’s more about how you perceive colour, not just with your eyes, but also with your body. At the same time, painting is embedded in the history of the medium, so there’s always meaning.

Does theory inform your work?

My work is informed by the history of painting. When I work on a circular canvas, I think, “Which painters have done this?” What does it mean to make a ten-by-ten-foot canvas, instead of ten-by-ten centimetres? Those artists made these choices because of an ideology. I’m very aware of that.

What are you working conditions like?

I have a very clean studio with huge windows and natural light. I need a calm and clean studio, though it doesn’t need to be large. I mostly need time. The ideal conditions to work on a painting involve a lot of time. Part of my process involves having a vibrant art community.

What excites you about contemporary Canadian art?

There are a lot of people working in abstract painting in a very free and interesting way. Also, it’s smaller painting—people with a different approach to the paint. It’s less about skill and showing off, and more about making very refined work about colour and shape.

This interview has been condensed and edited for publication. See all fifteen finalists at TheWalrus.ca/cpc.


Chris Berube is the host of The Walrus Podcast.