It has often been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but looking through the eyes of Canadian artist Alex Garant’s works is reminiscent of walking through the hall of mirrors at any carnival of our youth. Dubbed the “Queen of Double Eyes”, her pieces extract an eerily beautiful and overwhelming sense of emotion and reflection. Born and raised in Quebec City, Canada, Alex Garant found her passion for drawing and painting at a young age. She won her first art competition at the age of five and moved on to oil painting classes by the age of seven.
Since then, visual art studies and outlets were a constant in her life, and she ultimately moved to Toronto, Ontario to pursue her dream. “It wasn’t until about four years ago, after suffering from a heart attack that I rethought my life completely and truly committed to art as a career. And now, there is nothing I enjoy more than my time in the studio.” With works featured in publications such as Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, Supersonic, Hi-Fructose Magazine, Juxtapoz, My Modern Met, The Huffington Post, and Mashable.com, the visual artist’s talent is undeniable and we can’t help but feel drawn to her conversation stimulating pieces that have been distributed in galleries throughout North America, Europe and Australia.
When was the term “Queen of the Double Eyes” coined, and what is it in reference to?
An artist friend of mine gifted me the nickname after seeing few of my pieces at a gallery. As per the concept itself, everything is an evolution based on a previous idea. I first started playing with compositional symmetry – mostly vertical mirror effects, then I wanted to push this concept more and started experimenting with duplicating images horizontally. This leads to the “double eyes” concept. Then, I wanted to play on the physical response of the double eyes pieces; when your vision tries to adjust and adapt the image for full comprehension. I thought I could push the idea even further by creating the blur series. I feel like I can truly engage the viewer in the piece, looking at it becomes more than just looking at something pretty — it becomes an extra sensorial experience, or at least that is what I am aiming for.
Can you tell us more about your process when it comes to developing your incredible oil paintings?
It usually starts with a regular portrait in pencil, then, I draw the exact same portrait a second time and play with superposition until balance is achieved. I then transfer the sketches on canvas and start painting. I work alla prima [Italian for “first attempt, also known as wet-on-wet], so I must paint both images as one at the same time. That’s when everything becomes a combined picture instead of two. It can take me anywhere from twenty to thirty hours to complete a piece, depending on its size.
Do you generally only paint female figures? If so, is there a reason behind this decision?
I think that because I’m a woman myself; it is a form of self-portraiture. In fact, if I think about my earlier art experiences as a child, I can remember asking my mother to draw a face that I would later color in with wax pastels. I was fascinated by her drawings of female faces with full lips and big eyes. I am convinced that those memories have greatly influenced my current work.
Would you consider your technique and style as a modern twist on the traditional portrait?
Absolutely. In addition to using the traditional alla prima method, I also like to push how people are portrayed with two-dimensional media. We are living in a society where self-portraiture and self-narrative, through mobile photography for example, is a daily activity. By applying an unusual twist/process to the imagery, you suddenly transform the banal into an experience- you elevate the ordinary.
Your paintings create an optical illusion to the viewer, is this deliberate? Can the viewer finally lock eyes with the main figure?
It is 100% deliberate; the viewers should try to unearth the main figure by focusing on making those multiples into one. I would like my paintings to be conversation pieces as they are meant to engage the observers into an image investigation process and hopefully enlist their senses differently while doing so.
You’ve travelled quite extensively with your work. What is most the common response to your work that you think is shared amongst different audiences?
[Laughingly] This is a little tricky. Some people cannot look at my work for more than a few minutes without feeling dizzy, while others feel hypnotized by it. It becomes a very personal experience between the viewer and the artwork. Some people actually hate the sensation, whereas others can’t get enough of it. It is art, as long as it makes people feel SOMETHING, I have done what I am supposed to do.
Do you have plans to visit the Middle East?
I would love to visit the Middle East. I tend to travel where I exhibit, so should I book a future show in the region I would take the opportunity to discover that part of the world.
Do you think that you will be moving on to a different subject any time soon?
My core subjects will always remain the same, however, it will evolve over time. I am always learning new things, going through emotional changes and experiencing life, so each of those factors have a direct influence on what gets projected onto my canvas. It is an adventure and I will embrace where life will take me, as a human being and as an artist.
When you’re not sketching or painting, what do you do to ‘switch off’?
I love going to the gym, and watching sports and wrestling. The fitness thing is really important to me; it is almost a form of meditation, a way to reset physically and mentally. It also helps me channel my energy positively. I also believe there is a certain quest for an aesthetically pleasing image, like a long-term self-portrait sculpture. As per the wrestling, that is my love for cheesy, gimmicky, silly entertainment. Just a way to remind myself not to take everything seriously and to just enjoy the ride.
Finally, what are some of your future plans?
I always have a lot on the go, I am a bit of a workaholic. I encourage all to check my website [www.alexgarant.com] and Instagram regularly as I keep both up to date with all my upcoming events!