Most of Marie Lenclos’ paintings depict urban landscapes in the immediate vicinity of her home and studio. She has been developing this stream of work since 2018. A collector once remarked that “the absence of figures evokes complex feelings – as if we are aware of something that has just happened, or is just about to happen”. This comment was made in 2019, before any of us could imagine the world would change so dramatically, due to the pandemic.
Her paintings, which concentrate on the permanence of the built environment as opposed to the people and cars that interact with it on a daily basis, obviously take on a different meaning today: we have now all experienced these empty streetscapes, their eery quality, their silent beauty, their stillness of being. Although they may be seen as such, Lenclos’s paintings are not meant to be a reflection on the isolation caused by the lockdown. They merely celebrate what is there, at all times, and that which we do not always see amongst our daily activities: light and shadows playing with buildings and bridges, roads curving ahead, the promise of what is coming next.
Lenclos is originally from Paris. She came to London to study Graphic Design at Camberwell College of Art and never went back.
Lenclos started painting again in 2015, after an absence of almost 20 years. When she had her first child in 1998, there was no time, space or even desire to paint. It became a thing of the past. As her children grew up and time became more elastic, she started painting again, mostly during her French holidays, using the very same paint tubes and brushes she had kept in an old wooden box in a corner of her house since her student days. Those occasional painting experiences became more and more necessary, and she got a studio round the corner from her house the week her second child started secondary school.
Marie loves painting abstract and figurative paintings alike, but the strand of her work she is more known for is streetscapes and buildings; paintings of places she encounters on a daily basis as she walks or cycles around London. Some of these are very familiar places and come back frequently, such as the bridges near her studio and home in Loughborough Junction. Others come to her suddenly, by surprise.
When she wasn’t painting, Lenclos was a documentary video maker for around 12 years. This made her very aware of her surroundings. She got used to ‘framing’ things all the time, even without a camera. Walking around, she would suddenly see something and think: ‘This would make a good shot’. Now, she sees something and thinks: ‘There is a painting in this’.
So naturally, she uses photographs as a starting point for her painting process. The photos capture a ‘moment of seeing’, when the painting idea comes into being. A moment when lines, light, colours and shapes all fall into a particular order that suddenly makes sense to her.
The painting itself develops during the drawing stage, when she makes marks on the canvas with a biro. Reality is simplified, in a way, and perspectives become her own. She then spends a lot of time on the colour, gradients and light – working and reworking areas and shapes in relation to each other until a new order has been created and the vision feels right.
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