The Belgo Report » Vincent Marquis News and reviews of art exhibitions in the Belgo Building Fri, 15 Jan 2016 19:12:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pierre Julien’s new “semi-abstract-pop”: Peinture Extrême – Mise en plis at Galerie Nicolas Robert Sun, 18 Aug 2013 13:16:40 +0000 Pierre Julien at Galerie Nicolas Robert

On view at Galerie Nicolas Robert (GNR) since mid-July, Mise en plis is the most recent exhibition of works by Franco-Ontarian artist Pierre Julien. In the context of the second edition of AGAC’s Peinture Extrême, this tiny but exquisite show presents several large format paintings and a few drawings by a man who exhibited just earlier this summer at Montreal’s brand new Galerie Youn.

Pierre Julien’s paintings are vivid, pleasing, intriguing. Even though he was trained in Montreal – he holds a certificate from UQAM and a BFA from Concordia – I’ve actually rarely seen anything quite like this in today’s Montreal arts scene. Neither simply abstract, nor simply pop, the works in Mise en plis are hardly classifiable, and offer a free and playful alternative to what’s often being made those days among younger-generation artists.

A discussion with the kind curator helped me better understand Julien’s practice, and made clearer the connections between the works on view and the rationale behind the show. Comparing Julien’s previous series – République (2010), Le Périmètre (2011), and Cadastres (2012) – with the one on view at GNR, one quickly notices a very interesting transition in the artist’s formal language from a style reminiscent of hard-edge painting – he admits having been influenced by artists such as Peter Halley, Bridget Riley and Yves Gaucher – to a looser kind of abstraction, one which integrates pop-ish and graphic design accents.

And yet, when one attends to the few drawings behind the front desk, on the floor in the center of the gallery, or – if you get this chance too – in Julien’s personal portfolio, one realizes that this “freer” language has always been there, even while he was painting à la hard-edge. (And actually, the drawings could have constituted an exhibition by themselves. Julien often uses pages from fashion magazines and draws on/modifies them to produce surprising results.)

I highly recommend this show, if only to appreciate the gorgeous forms and colours that surround the gallery space. But I would actually suggest going with Julien’s own conception of abstraction in mind: as the construction of a fictive space, rather than as a dissolution of the figurative. Then, I think, the visitor will be able to appreciate Julien’s work at fair value, and especially not as “easy abstraction.”

Galerie Nicolas Robert, space 524
Pierre Julien
Peinture Extrême – Mise en plis
July 18 – August 31, 2013

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“Off the Wall”: Peinture Extrême – Cadrer le tout at Galerie Trois Points Tue, 16 Jul 2013 15:49:11 +0000 cadrer le tout

Galerie Trois Point, one of twenty contemporary art galleries participating in the second edition of AGAC’s Peinture Extrême, presents the exhibition Cadrer le tout, which brings together four creative voices on the theme of the wall. Talented, young curator Maude P. Hénaire selected the work of Nicolas Fleming, Mathieu Grenier, Guillaume La Brie, and Mathieu Lévesque who, each in their own way, challenge the long-standing supremacy of the gallery space as a neutral “white cube.”

The works of Mathieu Lévesque – such as his Losange blanc (2012) and Death Metal Painting (2013) – use the wall as their very extensions. The concave sides of the wooden boards mirror their bright colors on the white surface of the gallery, giving away the latter’s mute presence. Interestingly enough, this extension from the wall is just as constitutive of the work as it makes it hardly classifiable as painting, sculpture, or installation. In a similar way, Mathieu Grenier’s series Au-delà des signes (2013), consisting of fragments from the walls of the Musée d’art de Joliette, displays the white support in all its coldness, but also in all its handling and preparation, thus revealing some of the importance that it bears.

Nicolas Fleming’s Slicings I and II (2013) and Shavings (2013), placed on an oblique wall, test the neutrality of the gallery space. In addition to displaying how the wall might interfere with our perception of a work, Fleming’s work highlights the very space that it, the wall and the viewer occupy, making us aware of and troubling the ways in which we might or might not move in relation to them.

Guillaume La Brie’s Les entre-deux (2013) is, potentially, the most interesting work of the exhibition. A piece of canvas cut out of a landscape painting is folded into a paper plane, and rests upon a checkerboard assembled using square pieces of wall. The painting becomes subordinated to the whole – its status, one might say, desacralized and made playful like a paper plane –, and the purity of the wall is quite plainly destroyed. La Brie inventively questions the status of the latter by taking it literally off itself and into the “space of the spectator” – a nodal space permeated by viewing expectations and curatorial assumptions.

The value of this exhibition cannot be over overemphasized. The artists exhibited at Trois Points drive us away from our aesthetic comfort zone – as I witnessed in a handful of visitors during the half hour I spent in the gallery – and prompt us to rethink not only the limits (if any) of painting, but also to become aware of the space we inhabit, its presence and its potential. This is essential in an artworld which – even after all the challenges unleashed since O’Doherty’s Inside the White Cube – perseveres in the concealment of its assumptions and biases.

Galerie Trois Points, space 520
Nicolas Fleming, Mathieu Grenier, Guillaume La Brie, Mathieu Lévesque
Peinture Extrême – Cadrer le tout
July 4 – August 17, 2013

Photo credit: Guy L’Heureux

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