The connotation implied by the theme of Pat Walsh’s exhibit “Fish out of Water” is a stark contrast to how the Elgin artist is really feeling about mounting the project.
That said, she finds the theme “Fish out of Water” poignant in a different respect. “You are in that situation by virtue of being an artist, whether you like it or not, that’s just part of the task—it comes with the territory.” It is a theme that is universally relatable—feeling like an outsider. The only question is the degree to which an individual identifies with it. The exhibition provides everyone with the opportunity to explore their own unique relationship to the theme. In fact, despite Walsh detailing her explorations of it, she stresses the importance of attendees feeling out their relationship to it. “I really want people to bring themselves to it.”
Anick Lacroix says of her and her colleagues, “We are thrilled to finally be able to exhibit Pat’s work!” As they worked together with Walsh on Wednesday afternoon to mount the paintings, both Lacroix and Nancy Brunelle expressed their attraction to the diversity of the exhibit. It is composed of works Walsh has done over roughly a decade, as she elaborates, “During that time, so much was changing in my life [that] it’s not one state.” Walsh predominately does her work on the spot and so another facet of the diversity of the exhibit is because they are from a number of different locations: Alaska, Cuba, Maine, Lake Meacham, as well as the waterways of the Chateauguay Valley. She says, “If I get a chance to go somewhere, I’m going to paint.”
Walsh has always been attracted to the water even though she almost drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when she was nine years old. As such, she describes her relationship with water as a love/hate. That dichotomy is one of many that manifests itself in Walsh’s work. There is the juxtaposition in the environments of the fish in the different paintings. Some are very boxed in and exude an aura of claustrophobia, while others picture the fish as free and jumping out of the water of its own volition (a commentary on the need to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones in order to achieve growth, perhaps?) Others show the fish’s comfort zone being invaded. There is also a sharp contrast in the colours used—some are cold and harsh and others, warm and inviting. There is a contrast in the lighting as well. Some are bright and vivid, while others are dark and foreboding. Some are very whimsical, while others are undeniably tormented. The dark and tormented pieces resulted when Walsh found out that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai had claimed the life of a close friend. This also elicited another dichotomy that unfolds throughout the exhibit: that of some fish who are killers (ex: the barracuda) versus others who are being killed. Essentially there is so much diversity in Walsh’s work because she says, “[I work] depending on the feeling I’m trying to get across.”
Walsh has been working as a professional artist for close to 50 years. She realized it was her calling early on in life. Her father, John Walsh, was a well-known professional artist. She explains that “he was really encouraging, but never pushed.” There are pictures of her up on a stool outside drawing when she was as young as five years old and her face lights up as she recalls how her father used to set her up in the studio and let her use his oil paints. With fondness in her voice, she says, “He was always interested in what I was doing, but never interfered. He was amazing. My mother too.” When she was 17 and in art school, he did take her aside and stress what a challenge it is to pursue a career as an artist, however art was always what Walsh was meant to be doing. “I’ve got to do it, I don’t have a choice in [the matter,]” she exclaims.
A vernissage for the exhibit will take place on Sunday, April 3 at 1:00 p.m. at the Alfred-Langevin Hall. The exhibit will be on display until April 24 and will be open to the public every Saturday and Sunday, from 1-4 p.m, Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. or any other time by reservation (call 450-264-5411 ext. 226 to schedule). Admission is free, as is customary with all exhibits displayed at the Hall.