Visual arts faculty driven to abstraction

The work of two faculty members in York’s Department of Visual Arts is currently on view in exhibitions in Montreal and Toronto. While they work in different media, they share an interest in abstraction: a non-figurative approach to art-making based on colour and form rather than literal, pictorial representation.

York visual arts Professor Michel Daigneault’s penchant for colour and large-format canvasses is readily evident in his solo show, The Other Side of Abstraction, running until May 26 at Montreal’s Galerie Trois Points.

Above: Michele Daigneault’s paintings on display at Galerie Trois Points in Montreal

The exhibition features five arresting abstract paintings that leap like fireworks against the neutral background of the gallery’s walls. Yet colour is only part of what makes Daigneault’s paintings engaging and memorable.

As outlined in the gallery’s news release, “What makes Daigneault’s paintings unique is his ability to be at one and the same time seductive, visionary and ambiguous, yet resistant to the perils of painterly pathos. The spectator confronted by the constant mutation of images gets drawn like a child into exploring each and every detail.”

Daigneault’s painting practice focuses on what constitutes abstraction today and explores how abstraction relates to larger social forces. Visitors to the show will certainly gain a sense of pleasure and playfulness from Daigneault’s works, while the show’s title invites them to think about abstract ainting – past and present – and how it has evolved since the 20th century.

Daigneault, who joined York’s Visual Arts Department as a professor of painting in 2002, has had numerous solo and group shows across Canada, the United States and France. His work has been reviewed in major publications, including Canadian Art, C Magazine and The Globe and Mail, and is found in many prestigious public collections, among them the National Gallery of Canada, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Quebec Museum and Canada Council Art Bank.

Daigneault is now in the preliminary stages of organizing another exhibition to showcase the work he created during his artist-in-residency in February at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts in Paris-Cergy, France. As part of his one-month residency, Daigneault oversaw 25 students who were eager to try out new ideas. During his stay, he also organized a conference about new directions in painting while sharing insights into his own artistic practice, and he facilitated a workshop and critiqued paintings of senior students.

“It was exciting to work with these young people in a flexible, studio-oriented situation,” said Daigneault. “They were very receptive, curious and well-read. Consequently, they were at the same time challenging.”

Meanwhile, closer to home, photographer and new media artist Marc Audette has two installations at LE LABO, a francophone media and integrated arts lab in Toronto. The lab is presenting the world premiere of Audette’s The Imaginative Shadow and the Toronto premiere of Fontaine Rouge. Both installations are part of CONTACT, Toronto’s annual photography festival.

Fontaine Rouge is a large-scale colour photograph. The reverberation produced by the lighting device fills the viewer’s gaze with a bath of watery forms that overflows on the floor and the surrounding walls. It is presented in LE LABO every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7:30 to 10:30pm until May 26.

The Imaginative Shadow is an interactive work where the viewer experiences his shadow as a mysterious double, at times larger than life, and at other times as a fleeting reminder of one’s fragile evanescence. It will be presented in Distillery Lane on May 26 from 7:30 to 10pm, weather permitting.

LE LABO is located at 55 Mill Street, Studio 317 in the Cannery Building in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District. For more information about the installations, visit the LE LABO Web site.

Audette is a York alumnus (MFA ’98), a contract faculty member in the Department of Visual Arts, and curator of the Glendon Gallery at York University. He has exhibited his work in Canada, the US and France. Currently, he serves as president of l’Association des groupes en arts visuels francophones du Canada (AGAVF), an organization he helped found that promotes visual arts by and for Canadian francophones.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, publicist, Faculty of Fine Arts.