Born in Quebec City, Edmund Alleyn attended the École des beaux-arts in Quebec City and studied with the painter Jean-Paul Lemieux.
Remarkably versatile, Edmund Alleyn was an innovator whose stylistically diverse paintings, drawings and multimedia installations are all critically regarded as superb examples of their genre. An intellectual painter, Mr. Alleyn’s oeuvre resonates with the tensions that exist between the figurative and non-figurative, sometimes playfully marrying Pop and Formalist art together. In his later work, he invoked an elegiac, cinematic quality, inviting viewers to locate their place within his work.
By the age 24, the mercurial artist won the Grand Prix aux Concours artistiques de la province de Québec and a grant from the Royal Society enabling him to move to France in 1955. He won a bronze medal at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1959 and the following year he represented Canada at the Venice Biennial. His art is collected by the most prestigious institutions in the contemporary art scene as well as by private collectors in North America and Europe.
It is almost impossible to define Alleyn’s paintings as belonging to or following any one style or school of art. A versatile artist, who crossed stylistic borders in search of new ways of expressing himself, Alleyn produced a rich collection of works. Each shows that he never hesitated to move from one medium to another. Various series mark specific periods in his life that also illustrate the focus of his research. His overall production, including paintings and other works of art, are telling examples of the depth and scope of his talent.
At a young age, in the early fifties, Alleyn explored an abstract style of painting, influenced by then established Quebec artists Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Emile Borduas. He soon searched for a more personal style and new challenges that led him, in the sixties, to incorporate Native American symbols in his paintings. His use of vivid colours, including pinks and oranges, reveal the talents of a great colorist. This period will become known as the “Indian” period.
By the seventies, Alleyn’s work mirrors his interest in science and technology. Man and machine become a single entity as the artist delves into the evolution of mankind and a society influenced by automation. These influences give rise to a major work of art, the “Introscaphe”, an oval-shaped capsule that an onlooker can enter to experience a multitude of sounds and images. This avant-garde multi-media installation was entirely conceived and built by Alleyn while he still lived in Paris.
Following his return to his native Quebec, in the early seventies, Alleyn depicts a changing society in a series of colourful life-size and realistic figures painted on Plexiglas.
This is followed by a series of paintings, from a period known as “Indigo”. At the time, Alleyn was inspired by his surroundings and an older log home he acquired by a lake in the Quebec countryside. These paintings reveal a more personal side of his life, moments and happy memories of a past that he seeks to preserve in his imagery. The artist finds a way to express these more intimate feelings by returning to a more realistic style of painting.
During the final years, Alleyn painted a series known as “Les Ephémérides” on large canvases that illustrate familiar objects scattered on a dark background. The artist seems to explore once again a style that allows figurative and abstract elements to share the same space.
An overview of the artist’s entire work offers an opportunity, today, to observe how each period relates to the next and to notice recurring themes that are no doubt eclectic but also very coherent.