The Montreal Review: I see power in your paintings. "Power" was my first thought when I saw one of your canvases. Can we say that the power in your art, the power in the faces and the bodies of all these women and men comes from passion? Do you seal the human passion in your paintings?
Corno: Power always comes from passion. But I don't consciously try to infuse my work with it. I've just always had that burst of energy and passion, and I guess I translated it into my paintings. It's very instinctive, actually. It's not an effort.
Q. It is strange and sad that art was for centuries a male domain. Do you think that humanity lost irrevocably half of its creative genius because female sensitivity and ability for artistic expression had been oppressed and excluded for so long?
A. Female sensitivity was always expressed in art, but surely in a different way. On the business side, of course, it's not easy to be a woman artist in a man's world - for instance, last year I went to a contemporary art auction at Sotheby's where only one female artist was represented. It may be harder to break through, but I firmly believe that to be an artist is not a choice, it's a vocation. I don't think it has anything to do with gender.
Q. What is Montreal for you? You studied Fine Art at the University of Quebec in Montreal. Your first representation was at the Clarence Gagnon Gallery in Montreal. You are permanently represented at AKA Gallery in Montreal's Golden Mile.
A. Montreal is where I was born, and where I started my research. I've always loved this town, but at one point the market became too small for the scale of the work I wanted to do. Everything I did was too crazy, too big, and too expensive. I kept wanting more. I wanted international representation, I needed to be challenged. I sure found challenge and new opportunities in New York, but I still spend some time in Québec and find it important to stay rooted. For instance, I was just selected to be the artist of the Montreal International Jazz Festival for its 30th anniversary.
Q. What does painting mean to you - freedom, expression, meditation, communication, salvation..?
A. When you paint, you're in a zone. I always meditate before I start working: it's all about concentration. You have to let go, you have to be totally involved and focused and aware of what's going on between you and the painting. In a sense, you become this channel of emotions, and transpose them into the canvases: starting with something that doesn't exist, plain white, and creating a character, a light, an emotion from scratch. It kind of has a spiritual aspect to it, so I try be open minded and available, not trying to control the whole thing. I just let it come to me.
Q. If I'm not wrong, Andy Warhol influenced your work. Who are the other masters that you like and from which you learn?
A. I like different artists from different times. Art is like music: you don't listen to only one band. So I also like different painters. From the top of my head, I'd like to mention Renoir, Toulouse Lautrec, Julian Schnabel. My biggest inspirations don't necessarily come from other painters, it comes from all sources of art I'm confronted to every day: food, music, photography, cinema, billboards. It also comes from traveling and discovering different cultures.
Q. Tell me some of your
books and writers.
A. I like to read biographies, like Charlie Chaplin's, Barbara Walters', Notorious BIG's. I find them very inspiring. It's great to read stories about other people who struggled, fought and succeeded, and to discover how it all happened. Recently, I liked Augusten Burroughs and Deepak Chopra, and I read lots of magazines, like Andy Warhol's Interview. I'm very much interested in people.
Q. You are a successful painter. You are highly esteemed among art collectors and MORE MAGAZINE listed your name among the Top 40 women in Canada for 2009. There is always something bigger and probably more valuable behind the success - a personal story of hopes, hard work, hardships and probably moments of despair. What is your advice to the younger artists, to those who start their professional life now?
A. Follow your instinct! Believe in yourself. Always be daring.
Q. When I was a child I liked to draw, all my school notebooks were full with small caricatures and drawings, but I never became a painter. I know that it is a risky profession to be a painter; for this job you really need to be a special sort of man. Do you remember the moment when you said: I will devote my life to art?
A. I don't think I ever decided. I always say I was born a painter. It was hard of course at first to figure out how to make money, but I would prefer to be bartending for three nights a week rather than teaching art, so I could make enough cash to pay for a small studio and work, work, work.
Q. Your last show was at Opera Gallery, Dubai. When and where is your next exhibition?
A. I am doing London in the Fall, and most likely Hong Kong by the end of this year.
Thank you, Corno. It was a pleasure to speak with you.