I can’t recall the last time I came across a piece that spoke so candidly to my soul that I felt it must have been made for me, and for me alone. Indeed, I can’t even recall the last time an artist left me so genuinely stunned by the sheer rawness, and emotionally charged nature of their work, that I remained in a trance for what was only a few minutes, but felt like a lifetime.
The power of ‘Black Sheep’ by Haitian-Canadian artist, Marie-Genevieve Morin (known as M) lies in the fact that in some shape or form, and in varying capacities, we all identify with the black sheep. Amongst family, friends, colleagues, and society at large, although there are many traits, shared values, and interests that bring us together, we are all fundamentally unique, although perhaps some more so than others. Conversely, M’s work is not a celebration of the tenacity or defiance of the often-ostracized and targeted black sheep, but strikes me as more of a silent cry out for acknowledgment, belonging, and acceptance. From the drooping ears, downtrodden expression and bloodshot eyes of the naked sheep, to the black and white target that envelopes its body, indicative of its hunted or attacked status, this piece is a hauntingly sad, yet familiar historic and contemporary account that we all know too well. I was extremely curious to find out more about the artist behind the bold splashes of color, emotive motifs and concepts that draws expertly from a multitude of styles, harmoniously merged to create what I can confidently describe as masterpieces. Gratefully, M, much like her dynamic portraits, was intensely candid and forthcoming in our extended discussions, and it became increasingly apparent to me that I was dealing with an artist whose work is a physical manifestation of her journey of self-discovery and identity. It was soon no surprise for me to understand and see how – and why – her work pulsates with such life, energy and emotion. Born in Montreal, Quebec, on July 16, 1970, and adopted October 14 that same year, her biological father comes from Haiti and her biological mother is Caucasian-Canadian. “I am the cadet of a family of five adopted children, and the only child of color of the bunch. As far as I can remember, (the only child of color) at the school I attended, too,” she mused. “Growing up in a small town in the suburbs of Montreal made me aware at an early age that I was a ‘visible minority,’ but more so a black sheep as I never felt I belonged in this portrait. I used to try so hard to fit in, to melt, to belong; but in vain. I was precocious, curious and adventurous feeling the town was too small for me – and so was the country.” Studying M’s work further, I was surprised to learn of her childhood experience in suburban Montreal, especially given the African symbolism and motifs prevalent in her work. I wondered just how her Haitian heritage, and by default her African heritage, informed her work, and what connection she had with both places. ‘’I have never been to Haiti nor to the continent of Africa. I would love to visit and perhaps exhibit there one day if I have an opportunity,” said M. “Africa is the mother earth with so many colors, natural resources, cultural treasures and tremendous talents. It is the land of my ancestors and I believe today after seeing all the unimaginable creativity that rises from there that it is where it all began... If you mix creation, art, culture and spirituality, you can resume to the word ‘Africa.’” “I look at some of my first pieces and they speak an African language to me. The heritage is in my genes. I was not conscious of the recurring patterns or the striking African motifs in my artwork when I began painting. When I exhibited in London at the Gallery of African Art, I met a wonderful woman that came to see me after the show to share with me that a painting I exhibited reminded her of her tribe in her village in Africa. I was quite touched as she seemed to know what she was talking about. I had no clue, but I saw for the first time through her eyes that my work could have the power to bring someone home.” “While looking for my origins, I found my purpose (to paint) so I feel that I have the responsibility and obligation to learn more about my heritage, share it and give back through my art,” she concluded. One thing that really impresses me about M’s work was how energetic and vibrant each piece is; from her abstract-inclined work to her more figurative portraits, each vividly communicating a narrative, emotion or viewpoint. I was keen to find out what process she undergoes before facing a blank canvas. ‘’When I start a painting, I usually say that I am going to war, to attack a canvas, chasing myself and facing my demons. It is an endless battle between me, myself, and I, a sort of a ‘cache-misère,’: an emotional camouflage, a loaded gun, a powerful one that allows me to express myself freely. I am always on the front row standing in front of a canvas like in a survival mode as some paintings are cruel – almost like a drug, they keep me up all night. I am hooked from the first splash to the last stroke.” It might surprise readers as much as it did me that M only started painting professionally in 2014, and in the space of 4 years, has been able to produce 350 paintings. Additionally, within that time, M’s work has been exhibited in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Canada, with even more promising international exhibitions in 2019. Many emerging artists have not enjoyed the early success that M has had in such a short space of time, but I believe it’s extremely obvious to any serious art collector and enthusiast with a good eye that M is by no means your typical artist. Hers is such an inspirational and almost spiritual journey of self-discovery, purpose and affirmation that it is no wonder her work is so widely sought after. M is easily one of the most raw and emotive emerging contemporary artists for quite some time. With her unparalleled work ethic and energy, I can only imagine that the year ahead and her fifth anniversary as a painter will be her most transformative yet.