Bio and artist’s statement

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"She steals souls (Elle est une voleuse d'âme)” exclaimed Paul Lefebvre, assistant artistic director to Denys Marleau at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, on seeing her works.

Born in Ottawa in 1946, she began as a teenager to study drawing and painting for four years at the Rideau Street Convent under Sister Marie-Lucille, a graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal.  She then studied industrial art for one year at Sheridan College in Sudbury, where she also performed with the Laurentian University Theatre company for three years. This experience led her to pursue a master’s degree in theatre at the Centre d’Etudes théâtrales at the University of Louvain in Belgium. She then moved to Toronto, where she worked as an actor for over twenty-five years, including an eight-year stint as the French voice of Estée Lauder. NAC French Theatre audiences will remember her staged reading of the letters of Gabrielle Roy, directed by Danielle Grégoire, as part of the 2003-04 reading series in the Fourth Stage. Also in 2004, the vernissage of a solo exhibition of Ms. Demers’ paintings at the Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau was the occasion for the launch of the book Des planches à la palette («From stage to palette»), published by Les éditions Prise de Parole. Following a preface by actor Annick Léger, it features 40 of Ms. Demers’ works inspired by Franco - Ontarian theatre, accompanied by the poems of Joël Beddows. This art book is now a part of the collective memory of Franco-Ontarians.

Suzon Demers’ dual career as a stage and visual artist gives her exceptional freedom to explore and express the nature and complexity of the human experience. Though inspired by theatrical productions, her paintings are not figurative representations of the director’s staging: rather, she works closely with the actors to capture and illustrate the creative process. The combination of these two forms of expression - performance and visual art - has an intensifying effect: theatre is a quest for what is essential, and painting seeks to capture and reveal the core of that essence. Thus, Demers’ paintings constitute a timeless record of a fleeting stage experience. She is particularly fascinated by the fundamental nature of stage characterization, an obsession that drives her practice and evolution as an artist. Indeed, she is often surprised by the way her unconscious self can tear away her own mask. For her, the artist’s unique privilege is the ability to express her life’s pain and suffering, while continuing to live.