Marie Laywine

Story by the artist.

Marie Laywine, artist, A.O.C.A., born in Canada, is now a permanent resident of the UK, living and painting in Abbotsbury, Dorset. She’s worked in studios in Florence, Italy; Brittany, France; the Middle East; the Himalayas, Great Britain and Indonesia.

Laywine seeks to bring the world of the subconscious into focus, exploring the connection between our inner and outer selves, where dream and reality intersect. Her densely textured images with thick layers of paint worked with a palette knife, explore the landscape, the mountain ranges and coastal plains both in ourselves and in the imaginary.

Laywine graduated in fine arts from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, her third year off campus study was spent in Firenze, Italy. She has a BA in fine art from McMaster University and studied with Arthur Lismer, Group of Seven, at the Montreal Museum School of Fine Arts in Montreal. From 1974-1983, Laywine was a founding member of the Hamilton Artists Inc.

Laywine has exhibited widely in Canada and in the UK including The Study Gallery of Modern Art in Poole Dorset, The Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal West of England Academy, the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle and the New English Art Club. In 2004 she was shortlisted in the in ‘The Big Art Challenge’ organized by the Arts Council of England, Scotland and Wales.

In Canada her work appeared in the major exhibition ‘Here and Now Retrospective: 100 Years of Painting’ at the Hamilton Art Gallery in Hamilton. Laywine’s work appears in collections in Canada, USA, Switzerland, Australia and the UK.

Marie Laywine. "Saying Goodbye". 1981. Graphite on paper. 61cm (H) X 46cm (W) unframed. Courtesy of the artist.

SAYING GOODBYE is one of a series of 40 drawings using graphite on paper created in the waiting period before leaving Canada for a year’s residency in Brittany, France. The drawing captures the anxiety experienced in waiting for essential documents and leaving my country, my friends, my family and everything I was familiar with to live and paint in a country with a different language and culture. The only two people I knew by reference only were the brother and his wife of one of my tutors at the Ontario College of Art.

The drawing is of a singular figure positioned at the top of the drawing page which signifies a high level of anxiety. The figure gives the impression of being overwhelmed with the enormous undertaking of the impending journey. The bottom of the page is almost blank except for a few faint marks in graphite signifying the unknown.

As I got to know the French people I realized the way French thinking differed from my Canadian way of thinking. I could feel my mind opening and began to incorporate this approach to my work and my life. Living and painting in Quimper in Brittany was a life expanding experience for me.

Marie Laywine. "As I Think, So I Become". 1986. Acrylic and graphite on laminated rice paper. 66cm (H) X 51cm (W) unframed. Courtesy of the artist.

AS I THINK, SO I BECOME: This painting was created shortly after I left the Himalayas and arrived in Great Britain. The contrast in my environment was enormous and affected me deeply. In the Himalayas I lived 10,000 ft. up the mountain. At this altitude I lived in thin air with zero pollution. There was no electricity, no running water: absolutely no modern conveniences. The only mode of transport was my own two feet. Meals were cooked on an open fire. Population approximately 50 were all inter-related and operating as one large family. In contrast, arriving in London I was overwhelmed with pollution coming at me on all fronts: air, traffic, dense population, noise, so much food, people eating on the streets etc.

This is a medium size painting with predominant colours of yellow, green gold and orange. The painting is divided vertically and diagonally with one third of the painting surface covered with a transparent yellow glaze containing a square closer to the bottom of the painting filled with a darker yellow-orange colour. The remaining two third of the painting surface is filled with strong, bold, diagonal graphite strokes that form a waving pattern from the top to the bottom of the painting.

Superimposed on this background of transparent yellow, green gold and graphite strokes is a bust of a figure that covers most of the painting surface. It has stylized eyes and oval open mouth. Even though the open, oval mouth has the potential to emit sound, it appears as though it does not. This bust signifies the condition in the outer world.

There is an opening at the top of the bust’s head. Within this opening there is a smaller bust. Its eyes and mouth are closed. It too does not have a voice. The small bust signifies the condition in the inner world. The painting signifies the synchronization of the outer and inner world in a voiceless condition.

I’m beginning to work with the exploration of the psychological condition of women in voiceless situations.

Marie Laywine. "Jacob's Dream". 1991-1995. Acrylic on paper. 127cm (H) X 99cm (W) X 3cm (D) framed. Courtesy of the artist.

JACOB’S DREAM: This painting was developed over a period of five years. This is the period where I began to collate dreams that fell into a similar category. The painting was started with the initial dream and changed as the dream provided more information. Eventually with the ideas provided in the dream work, a concept emerged. This image communicates the concept developed using a group of dreams belonging to the same category.

This is a large, vertical painting. The dominant colours are white, black and aqua. The paint is thick, applied with a palette knife resulting in a richly textured surface. There are two figures seated side by side and cover most of the painting surface. The one on the left side of the painting represents the conscious and is facing the viewer. It is resting its head in its right palm giving the impression of listening. The figure on the right represents the unconscious faces forward, appears to have one eye on the listener and the other on the viewer. In Biblical times Jacob had a dream where he saw angels ascending and descending a ladder. The ladder formed a bridge between the spiritual and the earthly.

In contemporary times it is the work of psychoanalysis that explores the bridge between the inner and outer world’s most often using dream work. At this particular time I was going through an analytical process to explore the meaning of the images I was developing and the theory behind these concepts to give greater authenticity to the image.

Marie Laywine. "Man and Woman Facing East". 2000. Acrylic on prepared wooden panel. 30cm (H) X 20cm (W) unframed. Courtesy of the artist.

MAN AND WOMAN FACING EAST: This painting was created shortly after my divorce ending a relationship of eleven years. The moment of once upon the dreams, hopes and wishes was shattered into a million fragments when the final papers were dropped through a letter box.

This is a small, vertical painting in colours of ochre, black and dark blue. There are two figures which cover most of the painting surface. The paint is applied with a palette knife creating a richly textured surface. The two figures facing east signifies the position of a man and woman standing before priest, rabbi etc depending on religion, to be united in the sacred sacrament of matrimony. The moment is filled with joy, excitement, dreams, hopes and wishes. The moment signifies a crossroad where two separate lives choose to travel the same path.

I remember both moments as vividly as though they happened yesterday. This is a good example of an attachment to a memory.

Marie Laywine. "And Something Touched My Heart". 1992. Graphite and pastels on paper. 102cms (H) X 82cms (W) X 2cms (D) Framed. Courtesy of the artist.

AND SOMETHING TOUCHED MY HEART: At the time I was living in the small village of Parsil in the Himalayas, situated at an altitude of 10,000ft and whose culture was one of survival. I was exploring what happens to the dreams, hopes and wishes of a person whose main focus is contributing to a community to get through the day with enough food for everyone.

This is a medium-sized drawing is one of a large body of work titled: FROM THE CHILDHOOD STUDY SERIES. In the centre of the image is a childlike figure that occupies the whole of the drawing space. She stands as though in a pose: legs straight with the heel of her right foot at a right angle to the left one. She is wearing a full skirted dress, short puffy sleeves and a rounded collar. Her arms cross at her wrists at the bottom of her torso. Her hair frames her face and there’s something like a bow at the top of her head. She looks straight ahead in a dream like gaze. Her demeanour is calm, detached yet fully present on the page. On her chest is a white stylised heart. The background is blue with a halo effect surrounding the childlike figure.

On the right edge of the drawing page is a half-figure, similarly dressed. Her left arm is outstretched and her hand is touching the white stylised heart on the chest of the central figure.

I developed this image from a series of small sketches I did while living in the Himalayas, where I came face to face with such poverty that was way beyond my experience. I came to the understanding that creativity did not have a chance to survive in an environment where nurture is solely concentrated on feeding the body.

Marie Laywine. "The Spirit of the Red Man No.4". c.1980s. Acrylic on paper. 55.5cms(H) X 56.5cms(W) X 3cms(D) Framed. Courtesy of the artist. 

THE SPIRIT OF THE RED MAN NO. 4: I was made aware of Native Canadian people when I was the curator for organising a travelling exhibition for Native Canadian Women through the Hamilton Artists’ Inc. This was the year before leaving for a years residency in the Middle East.

This is a medium-sized painting and the last in a series of four. The dominant colours are dusky red, ochre and black. The thick acrylic paint is applied with a palette knife to create a richly textured surface.

The painting is divided from top to bottom by what looks like a solid block of rustic, dusky-red brown colour. Coming out from behind this solid block of rustic-red colour is an ochre coloured face, half exposed and projecting a look of caution, mistrust and wariness. Upon closer look at the solid block of colour on the left of the painting, there appears to be a mirror image of the half-exposed face on the right. This one though has undefined, flat and abstracted characteristics. This is like opening a book in the middle. It’s the same story but the content on each page is different. So what could this image possibly be saying? The painting is about two aspects of the same portrait, story, or truth where one is what the public sees and accepts and the other is the aspect that remains unseen, unexpressed for whatever reason.

Working on this exhibition was my first encounter with a group of Native Canadian Women. I was made aware of others who were not like me.

Marie Laywine. "Blue Woman". 1999. Acrylic on paper. 161cms (H) X 60cms (W) X 3cms (D) framed. Courtesy of the artist. 

BLUE WOMAN: This is a stand-alone painting done during an intense period of explorations while undergoing Jungian psychoanalysis.

Blue Woman is a long slim painting. The dominant colour is a brilliant blue with patches of ochre and white. Black paint is used as a drawing tool to give form to the three figures in the painting. The paint is applied with a palette knife giving the surface a rich, textural appearance. It is framed using museum quality, non-reflective glass to help the viewer appreciate the texture.

The image contains one single figure with two large birds settled on each thigh. The trio occupy the whole of the painting surface. The head of the female figure is pulled towards the right edge of the painting. Simultaneously she keeps her eyes on the goslings resting on her thighs. Her mouth is open but appears hesitant to speak. The gosling’s beak on her right is open signifying it is trying to catch her ear. The gosling on the left almost reaches the nipple level signifying it may be the younger of the two. The female figure’s face speaks of the distress she is experiencing by being pulled in two directions at once.

At the time of leaving my marriage I made the extremely difficult decision to leave my two young daughters with their father. This decision affected me deeply for most of my life until one day a new thought introduced itself: be grateful you were able to make this decision.

I dedicate this painting to all the women in the world who have been placed in this position or who have been separated from their children, for whatever reason.

Marie Laywine. "Portrait: Young Girl". 1983. Pencil, watercolour washes on paper. 38cms (H) X 35cms (W) X 3.5cms (D) Framed. Courtesy of the artist.

PORTRAIT: YOUNG GIRL: Portrait of a Young Girl was done in Brittany France. My daughter came with me. She agreed to be my model as long as the sketching did not interrupt her studies for exams leading to a Baccalaureate.

This small pencil sketch sitting right in the middle of the drawing page is the portrait of a young girl. The sketch contains very few lines giving the impression of emerging from the background of the page. The eyes are looking down. The blue-grey watercolour wash begins on the upper left side of her face, runs down the side of her nose and ends at her chin. The viewer’s eye continues up the right side until it connects with the sepia watercolour wash that begins to define her forehead by going from right to left. One could say that this simple and gentle sketch is a perfect example of collaboration between artist and viewer. The artist uses only a few lines in the sketch and the viewer’s imagination fills in the missing ones. Then the viewer’s imagination can go a little further and speculate on the story the sketch does not tell.

In Brittany, it was part of my practice to sketch my idea before beginning the painting to give me an idea of what problems could crop up.

Marie Laywine. "The Fire Eater". 1991-95. Acrylic on paper. 147.5cms (H) X 94cms (W) X 2.5cms (D) Framed. Courtesy of the artist.

THE FIRE EATER: This is a large painting that was developed over a period over five plus years. It is also the period where I began to collate my dreams presenting me with different aspects on a similar theme. In this instance: fire. The painting was started with the initial dream and evolved as subsequent dreams provided more information. Over the course of time the idea and image provided by the dream work enabled a concept to emerge. This image explores the concept of the creative process using the symbol of fire.

This is a large painting with dominant colours of red, yellow and black. The paint is thick and applied with a palette knife resulting in a richly textured surface. One figure occupies the whole of the painting surface. The eyes are closed, the mouth open and is either spewing out something or is taking something in. The closed eyes signify deep concentration. On the upper right hand corner of the painting the concept of fire is being generated. The half-skull-like object has two black eye sockets. From its right one there is a slow seeping of what looks like a yellow stream that moves towards the living creature of fire. Or is it in the process of creating it?

This painting is about creating the fire, being the fire, eating the fire and being consumed by the fire. The figure in the centre of the painting holds the potential to experience these four states at any given time.

This painting brought about a significant change in my practice.

Archive of Artist Works:

Credits and further reading

Official website: Marie Laywine

Saatchi Art: Marie Laywine