Concordia University Magazine

Painterly Reflections

Only when gazing upon an actual painting - in the flesh, so to speak - can one truly appreciate the pure human effort and energy behind it, a presence that remains elusive in reproductions. Nevertheless, we present a glimpse of the palettes and sensibilities of eight alumni painters and illustrators making their places in the art world

The Kitchen (Ways of Escape) by Paul Fenniak

The Kitchen (Ways of Escape), 2002, by Paul Fenniak
183 x 167.5 cm, oil on canvas

Accolades of artistic greatness tend to be reserved for a handful of artists, usually after they have lived their lives, created a body of work and passed on. So how are practicing artists to set themselves apart in the contemporary art world? Painter David Elliott, chair of Concordia’s studio arts department, says the key and common goal of artists is to present something vital, alive and new. “In the current art scene, challenging and exciting painters are distinguished by the surprise, freshness and twists on existing approaches in their work,” he explains. The artists who will leave their mark in the art world tend to have an ability to discover pockets for new expressions, he adds.

For practicing artists, recognition is not always immediately forthcoming, but that can change 10 or 15 years later, when focuses change and certain artists become the centre of attention. “It can take time for paintings to develop resonance and significance,” Elliott notes. Art, though, remains behind when the maker is gone — when an artist walks away from a canvas, the painting maintains a life of its own. “People can revisit works and re-insert certain artists into the pantheon.”

Craft and skills are vital to being a successful painter, but so too are dedication, devotion and work ethic, Elliott says. “Putting in the hours is extremely important. As painters hone their craft, it becomes theirs. They develop a personal language, what some people call a ‘signature style.’ ” Together, these elements make a painting stupendous or mind-bending, identify certain artists as promising, significant or possibly even great, and stir viewers to reconsider the world and their place in it.

Here Concordia University Magazine features the work of eight alumni painters and illustrators. Of course there’s a wealth of worthy alumni who are not included within, but we chose these artists — all of whom have exhibited locally and/or internationally, in galleries or museums — to represent a range of taste, style, experience and prominence. Some of these artists may be on the verge of greatness — or even have already attained it. Others never will. But what they all share is a passion for painting.

Marion Wagschal, S BA (general arts) 65
Beauty by Marion Wagschal

Beauty, 1987, by Marion Wagschal
25.5 x 30.5 cm, mixed media

Marion Wagschal has become known for her intimate “everyday” portraits that refuse to adopt the Greek and Renaissance ideal of beauty and the contemporary obsession with cosmetic perfection. Her portrayals of friends and relatives often incorporate art historical and mythical references, as well as to the Holocaust and Jewish history, and allude to the melancholy aspect of aging. Wagschal, who was born in Port-au-Spain, Trinidad, before arriving in Montreal and Sir George Williams, has taught painting and drawing for many years at Concordia, and her work can be found in many public collections, including the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Musée du Québec, Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, as well as Concordia’s Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery.

Wagschal says, “My interest is in the human figure as a powerful conveyor of meaning. Painting the human figure is a way to express my feelings and thoughts about living in the contemporary world.”

Paul Fenniak, MFA 94
The Tenant by Paul Fenniak

The Tenant, 2004, by Paul Fenniak
61.5 x 35.5 cm, oil on masonite

Toronto-born Paul Fenniak is considered one of North America’s finest realist painters. With a distinct visual language, he has created highly poignant and psychological portraits, situating human figures in natural and constructed environments that convey an extraordinary sense of introspection. In 2000, Saskatoon’s Mendel Art Gallery mounted the first solo showing of his work in a public art gallery in Canada, in a mini-retrospective. That same year, he was awarded a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. His most recent solo exhibition was held at the prestigious Forum Gallery in New York City, which represents him exclusively.

Fenniak says of his process, “Painting, for me, is an attempt to get a closer fix on something glimpsed in one’s peripheral vision. Something which, when you try to look at it directly, disappears.”

Marc Séguin, BFA 95
A Stroll in the Park by Marc Segiun

A Stroll in the Park, 2003, by Marc Séguin
270 x 400 cm, oil and charcoal on canvas

A talented printmaker and prolific painter, Montrealer Marc Séguin had a solo exhibition at the age of 29 at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, which subsequently acquired two of his works. His paintings can also be found in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée du Québec, and a number of Canadian corporate collections and in major private collections in North America. Séguin’s work has been shown in exhibitions and art fairs in Europe, New York and Chicago. In May 2004, he was presented with the inaugural artistic achievement award by the Concordia University Alumni Association. He says, “As an artist, I am a privileged witness of this present generation, wanting to testify or leave a trace that will speak or resonate to our times. I live in a graphically very violent world — so am I.”

Jennifer Lefort, BFA 02
Green by Jennifer Lefort

Green, 2004, by Jennifer Lefort
122 x 152.5 cm, acrylic and oil on canvas

Montreal-born Jennifer Lefort has produced an impressive body of abstract paintings and is considered a promising emerging Canadian artist. Her work can be found in the collections of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and Abbott Laboratories. The young artist has had three Montreal solo exhibitions, including “This is,” at Concordia’s VAV Gallery, and her work has also been featured in more than a dozen group exhibitions in Montreal and the surrounding area. Lefort is currently pursuing a master’s degree and teaching in fine arts at York University. She says of her art, “My work seeks to demonstrate all the relationships that can occur through colour and its use in an abstract language.”

Marie-Hélène Beaudry, BFA 82
No Return by Marie-Helene Beaudry

No Return, 1998, by Marie-Hélène Beaudry
76 x 91.5 cm, oil on canvas

Born in Quebec City, Marie-Hélène Beaudry came to Montreal at a young age, and she had her first solo exhibition in her late teens before she began her formal training at Concordia. Beaudry has exhibited across Canada and the U.S. for the past 30 years, and her paintings are in private and public collections. She is represented by the Caelum Gallery in New York and the Wing Spread Gallery in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Steeped in spirit and nature, her recent process includes tearing her work apart, a re-creation. “I see the canvas as more than a surface to paint on,” Beaudry says, “but as a site of experimentation. The desire to push the limits has always fuelled my motivation.”

Gene Pendon, BFA 94
Bobbito by Gene Pendon

Bobbito, 2003, by Gene Pendon
244 x 122 cm, acrylic on canvas

Gene Pendon’s progressive take on illustration is helping lead his underground art into the mainstream. The co-founder of the Montreal-based art collective Heavyweight Production House (HVW8), which in 2002 also opened a studio in Los Angeles, has been touring a “live art” project and art shows in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada. HVW8 mixes styles and urban influences, incorporating ideas from groove album covers, Japanese hyper-pop, skate graphics and turntable culture. Using DJs, musicians, filmmakers, artists and designers, the collective produces campaigns for underground parties, art installations, music, and paintings and commercial illustration. Pendon says, “Improvising to music is a big motivation for me, as well as painting live in clubs, where the creation of a painting in one evening compresses the process into an impulse, where there’s no room to second guess each brush stroke, and letting the energy of the surroundings drive the evolution of a piece.”

G. Scott MacLeod, BFA 03

“Kat” (The Maiden), 2004, by Scott MacLeod
183 x 61 cm, oil on Mylar

Painter, photographer, printmaker, illustrator, musician, educator and activist, Montrealer Scott MacLeod has worked as a professional artist and performer since 1984, and both on his own and with the Montreal art collective La Raza Group has exhibited in more than 75 shows across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. MacLeod’s themes focus on culture, education, social activism and history, such as his work on the Irish Famine of 1847, and his more recent “Lachine Canal Past and Present.” His work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada and by several private companies and individuals. MacLeod was recently awarded an artistic research and creation grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec for his current project, “The Sacred Feminine and Masculine.” MacLeod says, “My recent work has focused on combining photography, painting, drawing and constructions, using symbols from history to invent a personal iconography. This in turn provides a means of exploring the relationship between what is personal, spiritual, and timeless versus what is historical and social.”

Susan Pepler, BFA 84
Take Me Away (2004) by Susan Pepler

Take Me Away, 2004, by Susan Pepler
40.5 x 51 cm, acrylic on canvas

Susan Pepler is a Montreal artist perhaps best known for her “Carros de Cuba” paintings of vintage American cars from Cuba. She was the winner of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Art of the Automobile Contest in 2003, and was subsequently invited to exhibit at the prestigious Concours d’élegance Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Her florals and landscapes have also gained a loyal audience. Pepler has exhibited extensively in Montreal, and her work has also toured across Canada. Her work is part of the Concordia University Permanent Collection, as well as private collections in Canada and the U.S.

Pepler says, “I am dazzled and intrigued by so many of the things I see, from American vintage cars glinting under the Cuban sun to huge buckets of flowers at the Atwater market. I turn them into paintings so other people might also be ‘dazzled and intrigued.’ ”

If you have any comments about this article, contact Howard Bokser, (514) 848-2424 ext. 3826,

Alumni Association
About the Magazine
Contact Us
March 2005

The Editor's Voice
Letters to the Editor
Behind the Scenes
Association News
Words and Music
Class Acts
Kudos In Memoriam
Coming Events
End Piece