Claire Desjardins | Ready to Exhale
July 7 - Aug 1 Extended to Aug 8
The Big Send Off, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 in.
Wall Space Gallery is proud to introduce the latest solo exhibition by Claire Desjardins. In her recent abstract 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.
Out of Breath, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 in.
Breath is deeply connected to the body. We often hold our breath when the trials of life take over and emotions are left to be dealt with later. The release of a long-held breath brings with it a sense of relief that rushes through the whole body. In its place is a temporary weightlessness – and space for something new. Desjardins explains feeling the necessity for herself to exhale and process her loss.
Throughout the exhibition space are scanned pages of Desjardins sketchbook, featuring drawings of family members created during the quiet moments of respite during hospital visits. Amongst the drawings is a bright red poppy, the final drawing made by Desjardins’ mother, Jane.
The inclusion of the sketchbook pages is deeply meaningful to Desjardins, not only for their rich documentation of emotions and her mother’s final moments, but because maintaining a sketchbook was a large part of her mother’s own artistic life. Desjardins feels that beginning her own sketchbook practice for the first time is an act of carrying on her mother’s flame.
Poppy painting by Jane Desjardins before suffering strokes
Desjardins expands on each of the sketchbook pages with deeply personal texts:
“A mother/child relationship is a significant one, and can be challenging at times. In my case, my mother, Jane Desjardins, was the head artist in our family of artists, and a force to be reckoned with.
It was she who inspired and taught me all that I know about making art. She was a free spirit and talented. Her artworks sold around the globe, and she pushed me to create, to be brave and to be myself.
…When she was admitted to the hospital, my father printed out some of her artworks, and taped them to the wall in her hospital room. I went to visit her one day, and asked her if she would draw something for me (she had not drawn in a few years). I had reserved a page of my journal for her: the first page.” - Claire Desjardins
Final poppy drawing by Jane Desjardins while in palliative care
In her texts Desjardins speaks beautifully of the clumsy and quiet awkwardness often felt when we are confronted with the inevitability of death:
My brother wants to be near her.
He approaches her bedside,
draped in his yellow hospital gown,
and he stares at her,
He is hoping for
a flicker of recognition,
- some sort of confirmation
that his gentle words are reaching her.
but there is none.
He loves her, he tells her.
He wants me to take their picture, together.
So I photograph him with her.
Photograph courtesy of the artist
I photograph the details in the rooms.
gentle, kind, caring,
I want to capture everything.
My father watches
from his spot in the corner of the room.
He observes silently.
Occasionally, he approaches her bedside,
when nobody else is paying attention.
I think he doesn’t want
anyone to notice his surging emotions.
He wants to be near her,
but he isn’t quite sure what to say or do.
He doesn’t know how
- Claire Desjardins
As a vivacious optimist, Desjardins focuses her practice on bringing uplifting moments into the world through painting. Using her own artistic language of luminous colour and enigmatic mark-making to work through this difficult period of bereavement, she allows us to experience grief through an explosion of colour. We often think of the colours of death and dying as necessarily somber, but Desjardins shows us sadness can be vibrant yellow, fuchsia and deep blue – a celebration of life. Across Desjardins’ Exhale series, washes and transparencies create expanses that slowly obscure and combine with past marks. These veils of colour speak to the transience of memory, shifting emotions, and the underlying vibrancy of life. Using her trademark effervescent sweeps of acrylic on canvas, Desjardins offers us a moment to exhale. - Tiffany April, Curator
Breathless, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 in.
Claire Desjardins is an award-winning abstract painter known for her vibrant and dynamic compositions. Originally from Montreal, Desjardins now lives an hour north of the city. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Laurentians, she spends most days painting in her studio.
On the international stage, Desjardins’ paintings have appeared in major motion pictures and TV series. She collaborates regularly with brands such as US retailer Anthropologie, tech giant Microsoft, Birkenstock, GelaSkins, and many others. Claire launched a full line of women’s apparel under her signature label, Claire Desjardins, in North America, in January 2019, and in the UK, in February 2020. Combined, they are sold in about 700+ stores and online. She is also a Brand Ambassador for the DeSerres chain of art supply stores.