Joani Tremblay: The whole time, the sun

April 1, 2021 - May 1, 2021

Harper’s is pleased to present The whole time, the sun, Montreal-based artist Joani Tremblay’s debut solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will feature a selection of new paintings by Tremblay, created throughout the Montreal winter. Harper’s Chelsea is open to the public from 10am to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Joani Tremblay mines virtual, physical, utopian, remembered, and real places to create composited landscape and skyscape paintings in oil. In these works, idyllic expanses are framed by fragments of domestic and built environments such as thresholds and plants. Sun-soaked and imbued with the transcendentalist spirit and tenor of the American modernists of the Southwest, their work oscillates between representation and abstraction. Tremblay’s worlds activate an illusory median where perception and schemata are distilled to form new psychological oases.

The whole time, the sun is the title of a poem by Sarah Burgoyne, itself borrowed from a translation of Albert Camus’ The Stranger; each subsequent stanza is channeled from Camus and Sara Ahmed, a leading postcolonial feminist theorist. By means of refraction and recontextualization, the framework of the exhibition suggests a recursive reorientation and existential incantation. Grounded in the words of their peers and forbears, Tremblay affirms their conceptual genealogy, finding oxygen by untangling and reweaving sticky notions of place in relation to the social. Invoking Camus via Burgoyne: “The day, already bright with sun, hit me like a slap in the face.”

Please join Harper’s on Friday, April 16th at 2pm EST on Instagram Live for a virtual poetry reading by Sarah Burgoyne; subsequently, a walk-through and Q&A with Tremblay will take place. Follow @harpersbooks on Instagram for updates.


How do you own the sun?

You enter the valley of yellow sulfur mountains. You enter, always, through archways. You enter when you learn that for alchemists, sulfur is the soul. A symbol of luxury is hard to grow. Lemons are fussy, needing water, light. Now everything can be a frame. A feeling is starting. If the sun knocks at your door. If the sun. If the sun knocks and you look through the peephole, you go blind.

Open the door. The painting is on foot. The painting is lost. The painting encounters a gargantuan desert hare. Fear is in annihilating the gap. The gap is what creates longing. This feeling is carried into sky.

By sky you mean vastness and vastness means room for questions. You must have leapt and turned around. A small abstraction is the addition of violence. Curve yourself into it. You are selling vastness to the sun. Architecture helps. The poem is architectural. When you read it, it changes / the atmosphere of the painting. Approach the light slantwise and you will have many suns on the tip of your tongue.

There’s an imperfect symmetry to any sort of grasping. The wheat field makes a soft sound against the heat. Paper folds around your view. To be honest is to show traces. Get moving. Shed the shade and the fruit. Enter the desert. To paint the heat in the winter is to extend an elegy. Send your winterless elegy on a walk. When you listen to a secret language incessantly, you discover. It is not words that name, but loss. Enter homesickness. You were not born here but this is where you belong. It’s a feeling. What it means to live with a work of art / of a place invented by longing. To move from your soul’s tropics to its desert. Ah. At last. You are no longer in March.

—Sarah Burgoyne


Joani Tremblay (b. 1984, Montreal, Canada) earned an MFA from Concordia University in 2017. Their work has been exhibited at venues across North America and around the world, including Harper’s, New York and East Hampton (2021 and 2020); Marie-Laure Fleisch Gallery, Brussels (2020); Interstate, Brooklyn (2019); Zalucky Contemporary, Toronto (2019 and 2018); Pony Sugar, Stockholm (2017); and 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Tokyo (2014). Their work has been acquired by numerous public collections, including the Montreal Municipal Art Collection, Montreal; RBC Corporate Collection, Toronto; and Tricon Capital Group, Toronto. Tremblay has participated in residencies in Los Angeles, Berlin, and Tokyo, and is currently in residence at the International Studio & Curatorial Program, Brooklyn. Most recently, they received awards from Canada Council for the Arts and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation. Tremblay is represented by Harper’s; they currently live and work in Montreal, Canada.

Sarah Burgoyne is a Montreal-based experimental poet. Her forthcoming book, Because the Sun, will be published by Coach House Books in April 2021 and features cover art by Joani Tremblay. Burgoyne’s first collection, Saint Twin (Mansfield, 2016), was a finalist for the A. M. Klein Prize in Poetry, awarded a prize from l’Académie de la vie littéraire, and shortlisted for the ReLit Award. Her writing has appeared in journals across North America and has been featured in scores by composer J.P. Merz.