1923 - 1999
Le drapeau écorché #12
oil on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled and dated 1985
20 x 20 in, 50.8 x 50.8 cm
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000 CAD
Sold for: $11,250
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Jean McEwen’s journey through abstraction overlapped with those of his fellow signatories of the Refus Global, while remaining undeniably distinct. His watercolours of the early 1950s, for example, aligned with those of Riopelle and Borduas, but with McEwen quickly favouring a flattened, all-over “field” approach, rather than a “figure/ground” style with its accompanying illusion of depth. After moving through a monochromatic period which included his Jardin de givre (Garden of Frost) works, the artist then began his deep exploration of colour. Usually comprised of organically geometric forms alternately categorized as “margins”, “cells” or “cuneiforms”, it is this rich and luminous approach that became his hallmark. By 1985, his aesthetic had moved through another softening of colour, only for it to reemerge in his Les drapeaux écorché works, such as this one. Translating to “slaughtered flags” they are in reference to his famous Le drapeau inconnu (The Unknown Flag) paintings, which seem to have had their genesis in Canada’s 1963 search for a new flag. Tactile and gentle, this work speaks to the breadth and complexity of McEwen’s work at his Centennial.
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