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Nov 8, 2023

7 min. read

LA BROQUERIE-BORN ARTIST and CAA Member Mélanie Rocan paints in a style that makes the familiar feel dream-like, touching on nature, nostalgia and the links between foreboding and beauty. It’s no surprise, then, that her work takes inspiration from the wild landscapes and weather that surround her home, just outside of Gimli. Here, Rocan shares what she loves about her home base, her favourite Manitoba artists and what makes Canada special.

You’ve settled in Gimli. What draws you to that part of Manitoba?

A lot of my painting centres on what I see as the extreme, or “dark beauty,” inherent in nature. It can be very unforgiving here—it was colder than minus 53 Celsius one day, for example, almost as cold as Mars. But the cold weather can also be incredibly beautiful. It fosters a rougher, more resilient “prairie spirit” in the people here, which I appreciate. I’m also a hermit by nature. It really feeds my practice.

Who among your fellow Manitoba artists do you admire?

I admire the scale of both Eleanor Bond’s and Wanda Koop’s work, both female, Winnipeg-based artists that I have looked up to throughout my career. And, of course, my partner Shaun Morin, who runs an art business called Slo-Toons.

What are some of your favourite nature sites around Winnipeg?

We’re very close to Lake Winnipeg, one of the largest lakes in Manitoba. During the summer, it’s truly stunning. The sun stays up until 10 at night at the height of it. Hecla Island, which is 45 minutes farther out, is also a wonderful place to visit. In the winter, there are many cross-country ski trails, and one of the old railway paths has now been converted into a great hiking trail, the Gimli Rail Trail.

What should visitors do in Gimli?

The Gimli Film Festival is now the largest rural film festival in Canada. They also show films on the beach, which gives you a chance to check out the boardwalk, which is lovely. The Arnes Farmers Market is great to visit and is open Saturdays and Sundays. Finally, Brennivins Pizza is a local institution.

If you had to choose one inspiring thing about Canada, one quality or one city, what would it be?

For me, the most inspiring element of Canada is the landscape. Running into a moose outside of Wawa was really something. As for cities, I have always had a special love for Montreal. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. It also has the Belgo Building, which housed some of my favorite galleries when I was a student in Montreal.

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