There’s no light without darkness: an artist’s perspective

Abstract artist Claire Desjardins exhibits her paintings in Ottawa.

Claire Desjardins | Ready to Exhale

Exhibition at Wall Space Gallery
Exhibition dates: July 7 – August 1

Ottawa, Ontario. July 10, 2022. Canadian abstract artist, Claire Desjardins, is exhibiting her most personal body of works yet, at Wall Space Gallery in Ottawa. In her recent paintings, Desjardins allows billows of colour, shape, and form to merge into in-depth expressions of personal experience. Focusing mainly on her Exhale series, Desjardins’ body of works in Ready to Exhale explore the emotional passage of losing a loved one.

With the recent passing of her mother – a talented artist in her own right – Desjardins brings us on a journey through emotive abstraction to poetic reflections on connection, love, loss, and the enduring creative spirit.

Canadian abstract artist, Claire Desjardins, speaks about her creative process.

Canadian abstract artist Claire Desjardins speaks about her creative process in light of the recent passing of her mother

During an artist talk held at the opening reception, Desjardins spoke of the human need to create special moments together, and about how in order to experience joy, one must also experience darkness. The artist walked the group through the exhibition, providing insight into the various pieces. “It has been a joy to bring Ready to Exhale together. We are extremely thankful that Claire was willing to share such a personal period with us, and our community”, said Curator Tiffany April.

Interspersed throughout the exhibition of colourful abstract paintings, are reproductions of ink drawings that the artist created during the time she sat with her mother, in hospital.

The way I best express myself is through my artwork

“I spent many hours together with my mother who was unable to communicate, especially towards the end. I felt the need to work through some of the many complicated emotions I was feeling, as I listened to her gasp for air, clinging to life”, Desjardins said. “The way I best express myself is through my artwork, and so I brought coloured markers and a sketch book with me, and I began drawing things I observed around me. It was a period of extreme sadness for my whole family, and I needed some form of escape. Drawing was it.”

Artworks by artist Claire Desjardins, at Ready to Exhale exhibition at Wall Space Gallery, Ottawa.

Desjardins' creative journey extends to writing: she wrote about her experience in an effort to process her feelings of sadness surrounding her mother’s death, and her writings adorn the gallery walls, hanging next to her sketches. “We all go through loss at some point, but as a society, we are ill-equipped to handle it. We don’t typically talk about the process of death and dying, and I want to help remove the stigma”, she says.

Abstract painting by artist Claire Desjardins.

Apparel, to large scale public art murals, to tech skins

There is also a more commercial side to Desjardins' work: she has her own signature label of Claire Desjardins women’s apparel that launched in January 2019 in boutiques across North America, and in February 2020 in the UK. She collaborates regularly with corporate giants such as retailer Anthropologie as well as tech giants, Microsoft and Samsung, among a number of other corporate ventures. The City of Sarasota, Florida, boasts a 26- by 32-foot mural on Boulevard of the Arts that the artist was commissioned to create in 2021. Asked what the future holds for her, Desjardins says she is hoping to pursue more public art opportunities.

Montreal-born Desjardins resided in Ottawa, Ontario for several years, leaving the capital region in 2009. She now lives amid the natural beauty of the Laurentians, in Gore, Quebec for about half the year. The rest of the year, she travels and spends time in her Sarasota, Florida home, along with her husband and their two dogs. 

Most days, she enjoys painting in her studio, inspired by the everyday, especially her observations of nature. She dabbles in steel sculpture and textile arts as well, and is an avid gardener and kayaker.

Painting studio of abstract artist Claire Desjardins

Above: The artist’s painting studio, located in Gore, Quebec, which is in the Laurentians, an hour north of Montreal.

Abstract painting, Sweet Apple, hangs at Wall Space Gallery in Ottawa.

Above: “Sweet Apple” is one of the billowy paintings that hangs in the exhibition at Wall Space Gallery.

Abstract painting, Out of Breath, at Wall Space Gallery, Ottawa.

Above: Original abstract painting, “Out of Breath”, by Claire Desjardins. Available at Wall Space Gallery, in Ottawa.

For more information about the exhibition, please click here.

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