Artist's Notebook

Ideas and Influences: Louise Belcourt

Louise Belcourt, Forest Paper #3, 2020; gouache, acrylic, and paper on paper; 18 x 21 inches

New York-based painter Louise Belcourt recently returned from a quiet summer in the country, where she completed new work, which is on view through December 12 at the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia. The series comprises collages on paper made with painted gouache shapes, infusing the curvy hard-edge simplicity of Matisse cutouts with the joy and exasperation Belcourt found while surrounded by nature during these difficult times. Two Coats of Paint invited her to share some of the ideas and influences that have helped shape her work over the years.

Contributed by Louise Belcourt / I find it hard to put into words what ideas I have for making paintings.  

To offer up something though, I think there is room for newness in contemporary painting that combines abstraction and representation. It’s in this area where I tinker with paintings. How ever naive it sounds, I am after something new. 

The question is how to go about this, but at least for me, thrusting a specific idea on a painting isn’t likely to help. The concept of newness is just too broad and undefined to be manageable, and I think it is best approached indirectly. Besides, I have learned to trust my gut, intuition, or desire — whatever word works for you here — and that always takes me somewhere unexpected. It’s like if I can think up a rationale, that painting will not be interesting enough. 

A better question might be, how do you make a convincing painting?  

Louise Belcourt, Forest Paper Group #10, 2020; gouache, acrylic, and paper on paper, 14 1/2 x 40 inches

If you can do this, the work will undoubtedly have some life in it.  And for me, that’s the point. I find life usually lacking in the kind of art that didactically connects the dots. I’m more interested in seeing work that has feeling.  And the kind that go down rabbit holes. These kinds are nonverbal and make wall labels unnecessary. 

Louise Belcourt, Forest Paper #4, 2020; gouache, acrylic, and paper on paper; 14 x 20 inches

And when I think of influences, I’m going to interpret this to mean things that make me want to paint. 

Some of these are: 

  • Beautiful morning light preferably with a good cup of coffee. 
  • My garden and gardening. And reading garden books and seed catalogues. 
  • The massive hedge I grew up next to, my first and favorite sculpture. 
  • Walking with my dog in rural Canada — particularly a place in Quebec where I go every year. 

Music also always gets me going. Lately it’s been Tom Petty == someone whom I wrote off when I was younger as too catchy and simplistic, but he’s so not.  

Morning coffee
The garden in July
With my favorite hedge in Canada
An evening walk with my dog on the bank of the St. Lawrence River in Canada
Tom Petty

Among artists who have shaped my work, there are obvious ones, such as Bonnard, Guston, Matisse, and Morandi. A less obvious one would be Carroll Dunham. I see him as seeking meaning through formal rigor, and, in stark contrast, in-your-face extravagance. Another is Susan Rothenberg; I think some of her animal paintings are as good as Rembrandt’s self-portraits. I admire Suzanne Caporael‘s work — especially the way she fuses content with surface, and her use of color. And Franz West‘s, because all of his shapes have love in them. To some degree, consciously or not, I think I have drawn something from all of these artists.

Caroll Dunham, In the Flowers (Thursday), 2012-14
Susan Rothenberg, Pink Raven, 2012, oil on canvas, 62 1/2 x 48 inches
Suzanne Caporael,720 ( Read the Spill), 2016, oil on linen, 60×84
Suzanne Caporael, 695 (A Van Gogh perspective, after “La Crau”), 2014, oil on linen, 60 x 90 inches
Franz West, Free Form, 1998, painted aluminum, 87 x 205 x 77 inches
Franz West

“Louise Belcourt: Works on Paper,” Locks Gallery, 600 Washington Square South, Philadelphia, PA. Through December 12, 2020.

Also on view: “Ellen Harvey, The Painting as Ornament, the Ornament as Painting,” through December 23, 2020.


NOTE: Today is the first day of the Two Coats of Paint year-end fundraising campaign. Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to keep Two Coats going in 2021. Thank you! Click here.


Related posts:
IMAGES: Louise Belcourt’s place in the world
Louise Belcourt’s paradox
John Yau: “There is a lot of very good painting going on these days

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