Currently, I create 3 types of work:
1. Drawings of creatures and "landscapes" on paper
2. Paintings with dark subjects on light-colored, structured ground (Leanderthals)
3. Paintings with light-colored subjects on dark ground (First Hedgehog Series)
In the past I also did a series of representational drawings/paintings of US East Coast historic sites.
Common to these works is that color is used sparingly ("oligochrome works") or that they are in black and white ("monochrome works"). This is because I do not want color, or too much color, to distract from the essence of what I show, whether it is buildings, animals or fantasy compositions.
Creature and other drawings:
I enjoy drawing in a very energetic and impulsive manner, which makes animals and fantasy creatures my favorite subjects. In many of these drawings, I use black ink (sumi/india, acrylic and other inks) on "regular" drawing papers or "rice paper". The ink is applied with fountain pens, reed pens, and brushes, and is sometimes simply splattered onto the surface. For some drawings (e.g., sketches in preparation of other work) I use graphite or charcoal.
The animal drawings are not anatomy studies but show my impression (and expression) of the animals' overall gestalt or energy. For this reason, I keep them sketchy, abstract or distort them, and often let ink flow out of complete control - allowing the subject to develop some life on its own.
These large-format paintings (acrylic on canvas or board) have a visual appeal similar to the appeal of my drawings on rice paper but - because of their structured ground (created by mixing acrylics with sand or pumice) - also remind a bit of cave paintings. However, some of them are a somewhat funny, and all of them are also otherwise not compliant with Cromagnon rules for depicting animals. So, I decided to associate them with Neanderthals, but used my first name, Leander, to create the hybrid term "Leanderthals". The rough, structured background is white or has a light earth tone, the subject is black or kept in a dark earth tone. Some of them may come as diptychs or triptychs and are rather large.
When reading my Leanderthals and drawings, think about them as visual equivalents of short poems:
- focused on a single subject
- reduced (in color and form) to the essentials required to express the idea
- uncluttered and pure
- composed for tension and rhythm.
In addition, many of them are intentionally ambiguous - at the macro and/or micro level - to engage the viewer's imagination, enriching the picture.
First Hedgehog Series:
A painting of this series is the result of a slow process. It evolves over weeks and sometimes even years. Over this period of time, in the majority of these paintings, various "ideas" are layered on top of each other. Compare them to a screen on which several images are projected at the same time. I allow these pictures to be ambiguous and, in some cases, plainly silly. When painting them, I choose lighting and contrast as if things were set on the moon.
Go to the gallery page itself to find a short explanation of what the series is about.
In these works I try to show the dignity and serenity of these structures and scenes. To achieve this I give them a documentary quality, emphasize light and dark masses, and immerse the scenes in a crisp, homogenizing colored light.
By the way:
Although some of my brush drawings on paper remind of, and can be technically categorized as, sumi-e work (ink paintings using Asian drawing papers), and although I often use a red, circular mark (but not an Asian signature seal) to complete their composition, they do not stand in the tradition of Asian sumi-e painting.
WHAT OTHERS WRITE ABOUT MY WORK
Sometimes, others are better in describing some aspects of my work than myself. Here are two examples:
From a press release by Agora Gallery, New York city, 2013, on my brush drawings:
"Capturing an inner vitality while discarding the confines of realism, Leander Fontaine paints pure energy. As details dissolve in a storm of motion and mark, Fontaine's focus shifts to his impressions of his subjects, impulsively allowing dynamic horses, figures and mythical beats to emerge. Fontaine paints with an explosively expressive brushstroke, filling his surfaces with a delicate balance of fluid, spontaneous marks and crisp restraint as he leaves an untouched expanse to allow his forms space in which to develop. Combining the influence of Asian sumi-e ink painting and elements of German Expressionism, Fontaine paints in black on an expanse of white rice paper, adding a small amount of additional color on rare occasions for added visual emphasis."
From a review in Agora Gallery's ARTisSPECTRUM magazin, 2013, on my brush drawings:
"Quick, unpredictable, yet exquisitely composed, Leander Fontaine's ink drawings are gems of perfectly concentrated dynamism. With brush and pen, Fontaine paints animals - some real, some mythical - in motion, black blurs against empty backgrounds. His animals contain absolutely no detail, yet their form and pose are unmistakable and perfect in their imperfections: a ruffle of fur out of place, or a tentacle cock-eyed just so. Fontaine scrawls, splatters, and smears his ink to create shapes, suggesting a variety of motions through the use of such different techniques. His creatures, like the brushstrokes that comprise them, practically jump off the page."
A review by Lele Galer, in the Unionville Times, May 28 2015:
"Speaking of Kennett Square, Mala Galleria is featuring the work of brother and sister artists Leander and Mo Fontaine. Mala also has an array of really interesting sculptural works, but the big show is about the fascinating work of these talented Fontaine siblings. Mo’s work is new to me. She lives in Germany and is exhibiting her colorful, lively acrylic paintings that exhibit another-world-like sensual canvas of textures, shape and color. In contrast, the bold black and white expressions of her brother, local artist Leander Fontaine, don’t lure you in with a dance, they grab you in with a hook. Leander says his paintings are akin to a poem, which focuses and distills a single subject, “uncluttered and pure…composed for tension and rhythm.”
He can draw realistic animals that make you want to touch them, or, as in this exhibit, he delivers sweeping painted gestures that capture the heart and soul of the creature. His black and white paintings are brilliant, immediate impressions that are augmented with black and white tones of atmosphere. His paintings remind me of Picasso's bull drawings in their power and expressive stroke, but Leander merges the expressiveness with depth and tone that, like his sister's, creates another world for you to get lost in. After this show at Mala Galleria, which closes at the end of May, he has a solo show at the 22 Gallery in Philadelphia ... and then, who knows? Check out this fascinating show before it goes away."