Renée Duval

Gods and Monsters

This project began with a photo of half of a tree that I then “butterflied” like a Rorschach test.  The result was an image of a perfectly symmetrical tree and since no such thing exists in nature, the image seems slightly “wrong”. I found it interesting that a symmetrical tree looks remarkably anthropomorphic or suggests a strange kind of creature. I was curious to see what the image would look like as a painted image.


I was interested in the fact that the image would undergo a process of transformation: from a very natural and organic form (a tree) to a highly “artificial” form (perfectly symmetrical) and then finally to an image that is re-made as somewhat organic by virtue of being “handcrafted” in paint.
Although I aim for a certain verisimilitude in my work, I am not interested in reproducing the pristine symmetry easily obtained in a photograph.


I find that in the painting process the image undergoes a mutation that results in an image of a tree that looks neither fully natural nor unnatural.  It looks somewhat hallucinatory –simultaneously quotidian and supernatural –both "tree" and "not tree". I also try to underscore this effect by painting the images life-size so they have a physical presence similar to that of an actual tree and by depicting them in "natural" light.

With the Gods and Monsters series I took a major element from my previous paintings (trees) and headed into new territory by emphasizing the more surreal or preternatural aspects of my workI have made ten finished paintings in this "pantheon" of tree/creatures.  They were exhibited in November 2014 at the Galerie McClure in Montreal and accompanied by an exhibition catalogue.

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