By Alina Bilonozhko
The University of Winnipeg Gallery 1C03 engages many different communities and presents contemporary artworks through the University's permanent art collection and seasonal art exhibitions. One such exhibition, What We Make III (June 24 – Sep 24, 2020), collects the works of students and professors and focuses on the creativity of the University of Winnipeg community in an online format. The exhibition includes various forms and mediums, including photography, wool fiber art, metalsmithing, sculpture, drawing, functional art projects, and painting to represent diverse experiences and passions among the community. Renée Douville’s Double Overhead is an acrylic pour painting on canvas that embodies the spirit of life through the biological motifs and stochastic art-making process.
Renée Douville, Double
Overhead, 2020, acrylic pour painting on canvas, 10” x 10”.
Renée Douville is a professor of
Biological Sciences at the University of Winnipeg, studying and doing research
in Microbiology and Immunology. Her artistic expression
reflects the biological environment and living organisms through abstract
creation. “Science embracing creativity
ensures we see the world with fresh eyes,” as she describes her work, Double
The fluid shapes and structures in the painting resemble the formation and
movement of cells under a microscope. Loosely and, in some places, densely
connected to each other, the cells are forming a layer, strongly reminiscent of
a loose connective tissue found around and between most body organs. The function of such
tissue is to provide mechanical strength along with physical and metabolic
support to all the other types of tissues in the living organism. Randomly formed cells flow
unevenly on the canvas, simulating a random direction of fibers in the tissue. The thick dark blue
outlines of the cells resemble the collagen fiber bundles interwoven into a “mesh-like
network”, while the dark purple dots appear like fibroblast cell nuclei. Through her artwork, the
artist symbolizes the elasticity and voluminosity of the cells and tissues, the
complex structures of the biological environment, and an organism as a whole.
Douville’s artwork encapsulates the fluidity of the paints running through the system of interacting colours and creating a whole new world. The dominant colours of white and blue in the acrylic painting Double Overhead interchange within the direction of the flow of the paint. White, which is the main colour in the lower half of the painting, penetrates the dark blue at the top and changes its form into a thick line. The lines become an outline of the abstract cellular shapes, captured in their liquified state. The dark blue, on the other hand, moves from the top half of the painting to the bottom, creating a thin, watery contour. The contrast of the artwork changes significantly, from white and light beige in the lower half to cold blue, green, and purple in the upper half. This contrast creates an effect of transparency as if the painting is a section of the slide examined under a microscope in the bright light. The dark blue and purple strongly appear in the middle sections, resembling the staining process of the slide that enhances visualization of certain cellular components under a microscope. The colours in Douville’s artwork mix together and flow deprived of constraints, creating a spirit of life through the scientific motifs and allowing the viewer to see the world in a new light.
The flow of the paints creates the effect of movement as if the artwork is breathing and living its own life. To create such an effect, Douville uses the technique of acrylic pour painting, a form of fluid art that first emerged in the 1930s from a Mexican artist named David Alfaro Siqueiros. The painting process is rather accidental and chaotic that fully depends on the spreading and mixing of liquid paints. This technique requires direct pouring of the paints onto the freshly painted flat canvas, resulting in a semi-random process of colour mixture. The artists often use silicon oils or alcohol solutions to create eccentric cellular patterns and forms in their fluid artwork. The use of a butane torch plays a crucial role in pour painting technique which involves directing the heat onto the layer of paint mixed with silicon oils. The heat of the torch creates a chemical reaction that breaks the top layer of the paint and creates a cellular pattern. For pouring techniques and to move the paint in desired directions, the artists use numerous different tools such as palette knives, spatulas, straws, funnels, hair combs, and hairdryers. The physical process of painting becomes the art itself that rejects traditional brush and easel and conveys emotion through abstraction. This semi-random process of creating art in Double Overhead mirrors the semi-random nature of biological systems that creates complexity and order out of a chaotic environment.
Gallery 1C03 provides an opportunity for the University of Winnipeg community to express their creativity. Through the unconventional act of painting, Renée Douville creates an expressionistic artwork rich with colours and abstract fluid forms. Her acrylic pour painting Double Overhead reflects her passion and devotion to Biological Sciences, creating cellular patterns and structural frameworks of the tissues of the living organisms. The portraiture of the biological environment allows the viewer to look at the art from a different perspective as if they are examining it under the magnifying lens of the microscope, perhaps, through the eyes of the artist.
 Jane B. Reece et al., Campbell Biology (New York: Pearson Education, 2014), 919.
 Reece, Campbell Biology, 919.
 Reece, Campbell Biology, 904.
 Ibid., 905.
 Olga Soby, “Acrylic Paint PouringSupplies - Complete Guide 2020,” Smart Art Materials, June 29, 2020, accessed July 5, 2020.
“Gallery 1C03.” Accessed July 3, 2020.
Learning, Lumen. “Connective Tissue.” Lumen: Anatomy and Physiology. Accessed July 3, 2020. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/nemcc-ap/chapter/connective-tissue-supports-and-protects/.
Reece, Jane B., Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven Alexander Wasserman, Peter V. Minorsky, Rob Jackson, and Neil A. Campbell. Campbell Biology. New York: Pearson Education, 2014.
“Renée Douville.” Accessed July 4, 2020.
“Renée Douville.” Google Sites. Accessed July 2, 2020.
Soby, Olga. “Acrylic Paint Pouring Supplies - Complete Guide 2020.” Smart Art Materials, June 29, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020.
“The Science Behind Acrylic Flow Painting.” Fluid Art Projects. Accessed July 4, 2020.
“What We Make III.” What We Make III | Art Gallery | The University of Winnipeg. Accessed July 4, 2020.