Oil on canvas
122 x 91 cm
235, rue Heriot, Drummondville
Description of the work
In this realistic self-portrait, the artist depicts himself from behind, close up in the centre of the composition. The lack of decor and subdued colour scheme both draw all the attention on the white shirt — symbol of masculinity and a certain social status. But here, the subject wears his crumpled white shirt backwards. A double rejection stands at the heart of this work : the artist’s position, turning his back on the world, and the rebuking of convention implied by way he wears the shirt. We also can notice how the shirt opens and seems to almost be falling off. Symbolically, losing one’s shirt evokes the concepts of absolute solitude, of abandonment by society. But, in the end, who is excluding whom? Far from revealing himself, the portraitist leaves the viewer with more questions than answers.
About the artist
Mikaël Lepage is an emerging artist from Drummondville. He expresses himself mainly through photography and painting but also experiments with video art, installation and performance. He studied visual arts at Cégep de Drummondville and completed a bachelor’s degree in visual and media arts from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in 2020.
Recognized early on in his academic career, his work earned two scholarships: the 2017 Bourse d’excellence artistique Buropro and the 2021 Bourse Huguette-Dubois, which is part of the city of Drummondville’s program to support artistic practices. After completing his studies, he returned to Drummondville to pursue his art. He hopes to help build and enrich the artistic community in and around the region.
Mikaël Lepage presented his works in group exhibitions at Place des Arts in Montréal, as part of the Mtl en Arts festival and at the Galerie d’art Desjardins in Drummondville (now DRAC – Art actuel Drummondville). His self-portrait Dénué won the provincial prize (Québec) at the 2020 BMO 1st Art! competition and was featured in the virtual exhibition at the Art Museum of the University of Toronto. In 2021, the city of Drummondville acquired Les fleurs ont besoin d’eau to add to its permanent collection.
Mikaël Lepage’s most recent series consists mainly of oil painting self-portraits whose execution is strongly inspired by the realist movement that appeared in Europe in the 19th century. That said, his practice remains anchored in modernity, since his paintings are the result of photographic research or freeze frame of a filmed performance.
The theme of clothing runs through his works and may be viewed as a symbol of identity. The painter’s clothing is under construction, worn in a singular way or manipulated by another. It is a costume, dress and a second skin. It may be typically masculine or typically feminine. It opens itself up and uncovers. Mikaël Lepage’s work questions identity and seeks to decompartmentalize the gender binary. As he creates, the artist defines and redefines himself.
Mikaël Lepage’s practice is rooted in contradiction. He essentially represents himself in domestic and private spaces, in refined and subdued settings, hidden from view. At the same time, by choosing the self-portrait, he reveals himself and his intimacy—but only partially—since his tightly framed works voluntarily truncate some elements and characters in the scene, making them more complex to understand and rendering more elusive the action around the subject, the atmosphere of the place and the emotion of the character. The artist has said that by making his compositions difficult to decipher, he is trying to capture and keep the attention of the viewers for as long as possible, to immerse them in a slow temporality that is as close as possible to the one in which he works.