Born in Vancouver in 1964, Laurie Papou grew up in Port Coquitlam and first exhibited her work publicly in a group art show entitled “Poco Rococo”, a show where Port Coquitlam high school grads, post-secondary students, professors and art teachers collectively displayed their work in an empty storefront located in the local mall. Upon graduation from high school, Laurie moved to Vancouver and entered Emily Carr College of Art and Design where she fell under the influence of the late Bill Featherston, a noted figurative painter, and graduated with honours in 1988.
Laurie’s work has been described as “harmonious”, “metaphoric”, “shocking”, “a fresh approach to flesh”, and a “classical path through a Westcoast Eden”. Her figurative paintings explore the subjects of lineage, censorship, gender issues and desire. Her landscapes reflect the area in which she grew up and are familiar to any resident of the west coast – rainforests, river shorelines and evergreen covered mountains. The city of Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest has been formative to her creative process in that the landscape, climate and west coast culture are at the core of her psyche, inspirationand life experience and therefore inform her creative process.
Over the past couple of years Laurie’s work has evolved beyond her well known painting style taking on aspects of conceptualism through the addition of video projections. This has helped to broaden her technical skills adding the additional impact of sound, visual motion and time. In these recent paintings she has replaced the traditional light source with the soft illumination of the projected images which overlay the work. By projecting images overtop of her paintings she creates a multilayered visual experience which is unexpected and dynamic, changing how one is expected to view and interact with paintings. With the addition of an audio soundtrack in conjunction with the projected images, Laurie has effectively changed the experience of her work from a static visual experience to one which is in constant motion, tracing and documenting the passage of time and the cycle of life.
The works draw upon the age old theme of nature and examine the human resilience to adversity and change through acts of reinvention and the ultimate acceptance of the absence of control. The all-powerful life force that allows the possibility for survival of all living things brings both comfort and unease if not founded in the faith that everything changes, the good and the bad. Nature exists in a constant state of renewal, of birth and death; one reality replaced by another. Our collective life experience mirrors the ongoing cycles which occur in nature as we suffer our defeats and rejoice our successes in realizing our dreams and following our desires.
In the three "Orb” paintings, the tree rings symbolize age, time and history while the saw blade marks suggest human interference. Sexuality in the form of fertility is implied through subtle images within the details of the rounds. This theme is echoed in the four works which make up “Pursuit” through placement of the sperm-like pressed flowers within the rings. The vertical slices of trees in “Spin” and “Body” are phallic in shape and are complemented with video images and sound which embody the sacred and the profane dichotomy present in the natural world. In the sculptural installation entitled “Salvage”, Laurie recycles her leftover exhibition catalogues which are shredded to fill suspended plastic tubes re-creating a stand of trees; the cycle of life uninterrupted, everlasting and perpetual.
The aftermath of the windstorm that devastated portions of Stanley Park’s forests in December 2006 was the catalyst for this current body of work. The collective feeling of shock and loss resulting from this experience eventually made way to an acceptance that the forest will regenerate though it will be forever transformed. The forest is a place of spirituality and mystery providing inspiration, awe and wonderment for the first people and all who have been enveloped by its magic, secrets and resilience. Experiences such as these illustrate nature’s unyielding and unforgiving power to transform the environment contrasted with human interference which wrecks havoc in a more deliberate and calculated manner. Through it all the forest struggles for survival, as do we on the path to the great unknown.
Laurie’s paintings have been shown in many well known galleries across this country from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Diane Farris and Bau-Xi Galleries in Vancouver, the Leo Kamen Gallery in Toronto and articule in Montreal. She has given lectures at the University of British Columbia, the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and the Art Fair of Seattle, to name just a few. The Penticton Art Gallery is fortunate to have one of her paintings,“Three Stages” an oil on wood panel painted in 1990, as a part of our permanent collection. Laurie continues to work and paint out of her studio and home located in Vancouver, B.C.