When artist Paulette Melanson sits down to begin painting one of her abstracts, she has no idea how it will turn out. It might take on up to 20 different forms before it tells her she’s finished.
“I don’t start with a plan,” she says. “As I move the paint or make some marks, it sort of tells me what to do next. I know when the painting is finished when I feel that it’s a composition, that the colours are what I like…It finally says something to me.”
What it says to Melanson, who lives and works in Boutiliers Point, Nova Scotia, might be different than what it says to someone else. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
She loves hearing the different ways people view her work and hesitates to even title her pieces because she would hate to corrupt another person’s perspective. “What I like about abstract art, or at least me creating abstract art, is that everybody sees something different,” she adds.
But her talent doesn’t stop with abstracts. She also paints landscapes, often simultaneously. “Rarely does someone succeed in both realistic painting and abstract painting in a way that she does,” says Katie Hillman, gallery coordinator for Art Zone Gallery in Halifax, where Melanson is a member artist. “[She] excels in both creating these rich and luminous landscapes, these depictions of Nova Scotia, in particular the East Coast, but also these very expressive, mysterious, almost biological abstract paintings.”
Melanson has produced hundreds of landscapes and abstracts inspired by Atlantic Canada. “I have a deep connection to the Maritimes,” says Melanson, who moved from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia in 1985, in part to be closer to her ancestral Acadian roots.
She’s planning a series of landscapes based on the places the British sent her Acadian ancestors after their deportation. In 1755, the British expelled Acadians from the present-day Maritime Provinces. She hopes to paint at the Melanson Settlement and see what kind of abstracts it inspires in her. Located about six kilometres down river from Port-Royal, it’s where her ancestor Charles Melanson settled in 1664.
Her paintings have a piece of Atlantic Canada in them, she says, because the nature and culture of this region so strongly inform who she is. “There’s a story to everything everybody does for a living, and it’s grounded in history. I’m very attracted to that, and there’s a comfort there for me.”