melsa mountain

credit: Yagub Photography


Melsa Montagne presents a series of anonymous portraits. Invented human faces with expressions that are sometimes disturbing, yet at the same time highly sensitive. Melsa is interested in authentic feelings, the most precious ones, those that destabilize. She seeks to convey emotional sincerity. Her pictorial language is imbued with empathy for her subjects. She chooses to minimize the presence of color and explore a more monochromatic palette, reinforcing and focusing this emphasis on the subject. The vocabulary she develops, made up of striking looks and touching expressions, communicates the universality of the colors of the human soul that unite us.

The artist has reached a level of ease and spontaneity of gesture that now leads her to begin a work by way of abstraction. Proceeding by *pareidolia, (identifying a familiar shape in a stain) she then spots the expression of a face and the beginnings of a bust. Melsa reveals herself in an instinctive, outlet style. This technique leads her to live and build on accidents, pushing her exploration beyond tried-and-tested recipes. In this way, she avoids repetition and dares to renew.


Artist portrait with Melsa Montagne

Let's start slowly. Can you tell us about the path that led you to make art?

Do you remember when we were deciding what to enroll in CEGEP? Well, I said to myself, I'm going to go into art, I don't want to do math and I can draw a little! Lol! Okay, I also had an art teacher father and a mother who was very involved in the visual arts, as a watercolorist and event organizer. I started painting in CEGEP. I discovered that it was the medium that suited me best. And I've been painting ever since! I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew EVERYTHING I didn't want to be. My path took shape when I learned to accept the artist I was becoming.

You seem to be a complete artist. Can you tell us about the different mediums you use? Which one do you prefer?

Let's just say I thrive on a variety of supports and mediums. I love Land art sculpture, ephemeral works using elements from nature. I try my hand at making murals with cans and acrylics. I like watercolor, which is more delicate. Mixing techniques on canvas is really interesting. I do it regularly in my paintings. But acrylic will always be my medium!

Do you think it's possible to make a living from your art in 2020?

With today's social networks, it's much more accessible than when I started in 2008. So I'd say YES to your question. On the other hand, the advice I could give, which always helps me, is to be proactive and versatile. Waiting in your studio for your work to sell itself is an illusion. Especially for artists just starting out. Painting for oneself above all increases the passion and determination to keep going!

You've really got your own style. Can you tell us how you came to develop it? Any particular influences?

I started this style in 2014. I wanted to move away from the more precise and realistic technique of faces. It was a time when I had family emotional shocks that made me do a 180-degree turn in my approach. I needed to feel what I was doing on my canvases, to let myself go spontaneously with free gestures. I discovered my characters through these gestures, in the manner of pareidolia, an optical illusion that I now use as my main technique for guessing my characters through my brushstrokes.

What do you think of the web vs. art, is it a good marriage or a forced one?

We've reached a time when it's pretty much mandatory to use the web to view art. It will never be comparable to experiencing and seeing a work in person in a gallery or on an outside wall. On the other hand, to promote your work, it's ideal. I'd say it's a mix of a good marriage and an obligatory one.

Has covid had an impact on your day-to-day operations?

I'd say so, now that we've been in this situation for several months. In the beginning, I got a boost of creative energy. I challenged myself to paint one piece a day for 50 days. I was on fire! I told myself that it wasn't much of a change from my daily routine, given that I paint from home and live well in my creative solitude. I should have kept going! Afterwards, I had quieter moments, without inspiration to create in the studio. But at the right time of year, as I embarked on the opening of my green alley for the planting of our flowers. I also took the time to start my vegetable garden. Moment therapy in the great outdoors! Like many people, I've had a lot of contracts, exhibitions and projects cancelled. I have a positive outlook on life, and I realized that even though I was trying to keep it active and authentic, I had an empty present, with no taste and no flavor. It was as if I couldn't see any possible goals for my year. I often retreated to nature during the summer to get back to basics. I'm back with a vengeance this autumn, with concrete projects underway and more to come.

I saw that you had taken part in a TV show called "T'es où Théo". Can you tell us how it happened and what you thought of the experience?

That was in another life! Ah ah! I loved being part of that adventure. The small film crew was very welcoming to the self-taught person I was. I don't even remember how I got the contract! I've done other DIY projects for kids on TV, so there must be a link between them. I made these 21 vignettes in 2010, and friends are still sending me (in 2020) photos and videos of their children watching from their living rooms! When the vignettes had just been broadcast on the YOOPA channel, young people recognized me at openings. They'd say to their parents, pulling on their pants, "Hey Mom, look! It's Madame Melsa!" So cute, I love it! I'm not surrounded by children in my daily life, so I didn't know the impact it could have.

credit : Bibliothèque québécoise

Do you plan to do any more shows like this or via the YouTube medium?

...for children, no. I'm more interested in doing something that's in line with what I do as a visual artist. I sometimes do quick vignettes on painting techniques in my studio. I'm not closed to doing more detailed ones on other visual art techniques, but with help for audio, camera and broadcasting techniques.

There are some of your urban art creations, do you think you'll be doing any more?

I don't have any other big urban art projects planned, but I do know that I'll be back painting on walls, legally, before the snow comes. It's good to get out of the studio and really push myself. It's always a challenge for me. In fact, I've just taken part in a large collective mural adjacent to the Métropolitain.

Is there enough support for visual artists in Quebec?

I don't think it's enough in terms of television coverage. Despite the fact that there are a lot of organizations that help and support artists in their endeavors, it's hard to get people talking about us in the media.

In your opinion, are there any artists who deserve greater visibility?

Absolutely! I'm all for giving a chance to those who work hard. That's why I like to organize group shows that bring together a rich visual diversity.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

 Ioue that art is my daily life. I take time out from my studio to go cycling or yoga. I love simplicity, living and appreciating the present moment. Oh yes! I'm obsessed with botany, herbalism and magic potions, as my boyfriend would say! I love low tech, so making my own inks to paint with flowers is fascinating! So nature provides me with my working tools! Oops, I'm not giving up on my art... it comes with the territory, I guess! Before the pandemic, my social life helped. I used to love going out dancing and laughing to old songs from my era with friends until 2 a.m.! For me now, it's just a matter of taking walks and observing everything, taking photos, discovering Montreal's backstreets over and over again, or going out into nature for some peace and quiet. I'm as simple as that. Oh yes, listening to movies helps you unwind and experience emotions, but not in winter!

Do you have a hidden talent that doesn't work?

Oh...not easy! Ah yes, hihi:

- I know an invented dialect that I learned as a child with my sisters. Let's just say we know how to jargonize!

-Otherwise, I know a Beatbox micro beat.

- The 4 fingers of my 2 hands can bend 45 degrees towards the back of my hand. Hyperflexibility they say...

- And I might add that I can whistle well with my fingers (2 or 4).

What role does music play in your daily life?

It was already omnipresent. To the point where I needed it to put me in a creative state! I still listen to it while painting. I give priority to my headphones to be in my bubble. But I'd say that for the past few years, I've been painting in silence most of the time. I simply forget to put them on.

Can you tell us about your involvement in the book "Cet imperceptible mouvement"?

delivers this imperceptible movement

I simply illustrated the cover. This is the 3rd book by author AUDE (from Éditions Bibliothèque Québécoise) that I've had the chance to illustrate! And her stories are often strangely related to my own work. You should know that the author is no longer with us, so it's sometimes confusing when I read these similarities and connections.

I hope the reader will be titillated, so where can we admire your work?

- All over the city on bus shelters with posters from the DANS LA RUE awareness campaign, which helps young people get off the streets.

- My website:

- Instagram: @melsamontagne

- Facebook: Melsa Mountain Art

- The gallery that represents me:

- On some Montreal walls!

Do you have any projects in development or a future project you'd like to talk about?

I'm leaving in November for my first creative residency. I had planned to do a vernissage and open house, but with the confinement, I'll just be creating and sharing my daily life on social networks so that people can follow the developments of my residency with me. Following this residency, I have an exhibition booked at Galerie 2112 in Montreal in December.

To thank you, I'll leave you with the last word!

I invite people to come and ask me questions about my practice and art techniques. I also love to collaborate on art projects, so drop me a line and let's talk! Thanks for your questions xx

Biography | Biography

MELSA Montagne obtained her college diploma in plastic arts in 1998. It was there that she discovered painting and the amalgam of its techniques, which now serves as her medium of expression. In 2008, she decided to immerse herself full-time in the art world, making her mark as a dynamic presence on the Montreal scene with a variety of artistic creations, including murals, frescoes and a public piano. Accompanied byupcycling artist LARTISNICK, they are winners of the Tribute to Frédéric Back "in 2014 with the creation of a public work of art". The Proliferator ", a monumental, ephemeral sculpture (2014-2020) created on a large poplar tree in La Fontaine Park. December 2015, Melsa is approached to illustrate posters for the organization's awareness campaign "Dans La Rue". Since then, they've been popping up in bus shelters and subways all over the big city. Melsa takes part in many visual arts festivals, fund-raising auctions and competitions. She has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix of the Festival Mtl en Arts 2016. She also won the BIXI & MOI competition as part of the 375th anniversary of Montreal. One of her works is on a Bixi. Her work has been shown in various group and solo exhibitions in Montreal, Quebec, Boston and Australia. She is currently represented by Galerie Champagne et Paradis in Kamouraska, Lower St. Lawrence, Quebec. Melsa Montagne lives and works in Montreal.


Video : Portrait of a Montreal artist: Melsa Montagne

credit: Montréal dans ta pipe by Ugo Bergeron