Attract and repel: Mathieu Laca’s portraits channel Francis Bacon’s “intensity”
Artful Musing

Attract and repel: Mathieu Laca’s portraits channel Francis Bacon’s “intensity”

Mathieu Laca is back. Or, more precisely, his paintings are making an Ottawa comeback.

You may remember the Montreal-based Laca as the star of the long-gone Patrick John Mills Gallery in Hintonburg. Laca painted dramatic and often graphic allegories involving people, animals, and devils. The eroticism and critiques of religion were intense. Laca was the gallery’s best-selling artist, Mills said. Some Ottawa collectors could not get enough of him. Then Mills’s gallery closed in 2012.

Now, some years later, Laca has signed on with Dominik Sokolowski’s Alpha Gallery in the Byward Market. His first solo exhibition is scheduled to run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 13.

Paul Cezanne by Mathieu Laca

In a pre-exhibition interview, Laca said he expected to be creating 30 paintings for the show and most were to be portraits of famous people, including some head-to-toe canvases.

Jane Goodall by Mathieu Laca

These are portraits with a twist. Some heads are extravagantly distorted; others are in the process of exploding. They simultaneously attract and repel. Energy and mystery abound. There’s a definite influence here from the late, great Francis Bacon.

“He’s my favourite painter,” Laca says. It is not a question of imitating Bacon, he says, but rather there is the goal of conveying a similar “intensity” to his paintings.

Sigmund Freud by Mathieu Laca

Among the portraits for the show, naturalist Jane Goodall, psychologist Sigmund Freud, and artist Paul Cezanne are included. Portraits of author Virginia Woolf, composer Johannes Brahms, and politician Rene Levesque can be viewed on his website.

Laca has definitely matured and improved from his days with Mills, which is evident in his portraits that are far better artistic statements and much less self-indulgent. Moreover, the portraits are not faithful reproductions of the way the subject looked in real life, says Laca. Instead, “it’s more about trying to capture the spirit” of the people being painted.

Welcome back Mathieu.



The National Gallery stages a retrospective of Alberta’s aboriginal artist Alex Janvier, Nov. 25 to April 17.

Ottawa landscape painter David Lidbetter has a solo exhibition at Wall Space Gallery Nov. 11-17.

Gatineau abstract painter Jean-Francois Provost has a solo show at Galerie St Laurent + Hill in the Byward Market Nov. 10-23.

The Ottawa Art Gallery is offering the last shows to be seen in its current space; among them, a solo exhibition by Ottawa abstract painter Melanie Authier, until Jan. 2, 2017.