Saturday, 29 November 2014


MARIE-HÉLÈNE SIROIS’ SCHUMANN + WIECK SYMPHONY, which allies painting and music, is a celebration of Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck’s life and works and is an illustration of art’s richness and interactivity.

Notorious German composer, Robert Schumann and his wife, virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck, lived a complex and passionate love affair in spite of Clara’s father firm opposition to their union and of Schumann’s later illness. Their relationship is the foundation of four series of paintings through which are represented, as a symphony in four movements, the several periods of their love story.

The first movement, called Le Prélude, counts twelve wood panels measuring 91 cm by 2,13 meters. On every panel is painted a white rose in a different flowering stage. The paintings are united into a single work of art, 11 meters long, where the onlookers can see the entire rose’s life, symbolizing the various phases of a love affair.

This first visual movement is linked with Schumann’s Opus 82, Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), a booklet of nine small piano pieces describing a walk in the woods. The fourth piece, Haunted Place, is prefaced with a poem by Frederich Hebbel which gives spirit to the melody and to the entirety of Le Prélude :

Tall as they grow, the flowers here
Are pale, just like death;
Only one in the middle
Stands there in dark red.

It’s color does not come from the sun,
Whose glow never reached it,
It comes from the earth
Which drank human blood.


Marie-Hélène Sirois, born in Chicoutimi in 1978, lives and works in Magog, Québec. She starts her artistic career in 2006 after studies in Fine Arts, French and Communication.

In 2009, Artifex and Montreal’s Hotel Nelligan notice her work, which leads to her first solo exhibition. She creates twelve paintings on the life and works of Canadian poet Émile Nelligan. As she was researching this project, she discovers a passion for understanding the creative processes of notorious artists, whatever their means of expression. She is fascinated by the impact personal, historical or social events have on artists’ inspirations and on how this ultimately embodies their works of art. She integrates the most significative of her findings in her own artistic production and wishes then to illustrate art’s richness and interactivity.

Thus in 2010 Marie-Hélène Sirois begins a colossal project on German composer Robert Schumann and his wife, virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck. While getting familiar with Schumann and Wieck’s life and compositions, she envisions an ambitious body of work that would ally painting and music. It is via four series of paintings, as a «visual symphony in four movements», that she aspires to depict the transformation of the couple’s feelings through the important events that shaped their relationship.

Schumann’s music holds a crucial place in the project. Each visual movement is associated with and inspired by one of his musical scores. After a twenty year pause, Marie-Hélène Sirois restarts her piano studies in the means to interpret herself Schumann’s selected musical scores at her opening shows.

This series of paintings on Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck brings Marie-Hélène Sirois to perfect her painting technique. In 2011, she completes an Old Master Painting Technique course (oil and tempera). This rarely used know-how necessitates many production steps, drawing and image composition hold an important place in the process. Each painting is built with many fine layers of paint that confer depth and richness to the artwork and demand rigour and meticulousness from the artist.

In November 2014, Marie-Hélène Sirois introduces her first visual movement, Le Prélude, composed of twelve paintings joined to Schumann’s Opus 82, Waldszenen (Forest Scenes). She will soon begin her work on her second movement, Concert sans Orchestre, where she will examine the obstacles that amplify desire, the complementarity of artists sharing the same passions and the way imagination transforms and idealizes the other when lovers are parted.


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