Lisa Brown’s art is just like her – bold, beautiful and inspiring. Displayed against the white walls of the Gladstone Hotel, the colours and details of the paintings really show up and make you wonder about the person behind its creation.
Sadly, Lisa’s life was cut short at the age of 31 following a battle with cancer. Her art was part of an exhibition called I’m No Wallflower: A Lisa Brown Retrospective which ran from December 13 to January 5 at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West.
The show celebrated the life and works of the contemporary Canadian artist by showcasing about 40 of Lisa’s original pieces that were carefully selected by curator Cia Mellegers.
The opening of the exhibition also included the release of a book titled J’ai Reve Quelque Chose Hier, which is a chronological journey through Lisa’s work, her thoughts on painting as well as a few notes from friends.
A portion of the proceeds from the exhibition will support the Bridgepoint Active Healthcare where Lisa spent most of her final days.
After quitting high school at 17, she left Toronto for Paris in 1986 to chase her dream of becoming a painter. She told her parents she was going for a month but only returned when her health took a turn for the worse in 2000.
During her early days in Paris, she was influenced by the works of Picasso and Matisse and this was reflected in the paintings she did at the time which were more complex and colourful. Even in her choice of makeup and clothes, bold colours were prominent. With her red lipstick and brightly patterned dresses, she always stood out, just like her paintings.
Lisa was in Paris for nearly 10 years and threw herself into her work by painting tirelessly and taking part in various exhibitions. She derived inspiration from comics, pop and street art and often outlined her images in black to give it a cartoon effect. The free-spirited young lady who admired the work of artists such as Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf also did paintings that had naked men and women floating around in backgrounds of reds and blues.
After a short visit to Berlin in 1990, Lisa finally decided to move there six years later where she happened to meet French artist Thierry Noir. The two shared a close friendship and Lisa soon became his assistant.
They worked together on various projects and Lisa followed Thierry’s advice on keeping her paintings more simple by using just two ideas and three colours. She began to paint using this new style so that her work appealed to a wider audience.
Lisa made the most of her time in Berlin by doing solo and group shows, painting murals and travelling.
She also had the honour of being the only Canadian artist to be asked to paint on the Berlin wall in 1998. Lisa, along with other artists, painted different sections of the wall to help preserve it at Postdamer Platz.
Her mural painting was that of a yellow bird representing freedom, a red dog representing protection, two eggs, and a world in between them. A portion of the wall that includes Lisa’s mural has been preserved and is on view inside the Federal Ministry for the Environment building in Berlin.
Lisa’s eldest sister, songwriter and voice artist Melleny Melody and her brother-in-law, film director Clive Smith, moved a large collection of art from Berlin to Toronto after she passed away in 2001.
“If she were still alive today, I can only imagine what she might have accomplished. She was such an inspiration,” Melleny said.
Lisa Brown’s life was all about believing in herself and working hard even when her health was failing.
She made a lasting impression on the people around her and through her art, Lisa continues to be an inspiration.