I am obsessed with a turn-of-the-century French painter named Augustine Lesage. His work has inspired my graduate collection and basically I feel right now that everything I will ever do creatively in my life will be affected a little bit by his lingering ghost.
My search for Mr.Lesage
He inspired the curved symmetry of my seams, my generous use of subdued color and my search for humanity in disguise. The prints in my 'Imperfect Mandala' collection are for the most part comprised of whole or parts of his paintings, sometimes paired with elements from Islamic traditional motifs and other imagery. I was inspired by the force of his paintings- they look perfect, almost superhuman when you look at them for the first time, but upon closer inspection one can see tiny, beautiful faults in the mirroring. His works draw me into a world of Egyptian fantasy - some semblance of a spiritual layer on our world that was visible to only him.
I left Tokyo and traveled to Bethune, a small village in the north eastern part of France in August 2011, in an attempt to see some of the works of Augustin Lesage in real life, and perhaps to communicate with him. I was aware that in life he was a spiritualist and if his spirit – now, on the other side – was still active, then my romantic heart led me to believe that maybe I could ask his permission or his opinion in reference to my work. Or to at least say ‘Bonjour, merci.'
'This', said the woman, pointing to a large, sealed wooden crate ' is the work of Augustin Lesage'. The box was archived and therefore unable to be opened for me to see the contents. The woman was kind enough to inform me that if I went to the largest city in the region, Lille, that I would be able to see some of his work on display permanently in the Art Brut section of the Contemporary Gallery of Art
(LAM- www.musee-lam.fr/). I was dejected.
I decided not to give up on visiting with his works. That same day, I took the next train to Lille. It is a beautiful, typically northern French town, all red brick and gold filigree. The train station opens up to a gigantic boulevard that leads, after a short distance walking, to a well-preserved part of the town that reminded me of the settlers village in 'old Montreal'. It was beautiful, romantic, sentimental – but I was alone and had no idea what to do with myself. Quaint, romantic towns can seem uncanny and intimidating when you have no companion but your curiosity.
I wandered the streets, decided upon familiarizing myself with the daintiness of the decorations on the building facades, and the random roughness of the cobblestone underfoot. Had a beer with a strange woman.
Finally it was time to see his work. I went to the museum the next day and it was open and I ran through the sculpture garden past the Picassos and the Lipschitz to the entrance and was the only customer in the museum. I decided to ponder the Russian Avante Garde and the Cubists on my way out, hurrying by in such a frenzy that I noticed some of the security guards giving me weird looks, slowly following me to make sure I wasn't dangerous.
Then, finally, I saw it. My eyes filled with tears. The lady with her kids standing next to me whispered to them ' look, this lady is crying for some reason.'