1939 - 2014
acrylic on 18 assembled canvases
signed and dated 1975 and on verso signed, titled and dated
48 x 96 in 121.9 x 243.8 cm
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000
Sold for: $58,250
Estate of the Artist
Mary-Venner Shee, Jacques Hurtubise: Recent Works, The Art Museum and Galleries, California State University, 1981, pages 13 - 16
François-Marc Gagnon, Thinking Through Paint - Hurtubise: Four Decades, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1998, page 39
Mayo Graham, editor, Jacques Hurtubise, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2011, essay by Jeffrey Spalding, mentioned pages 64 and 65, and essay by Bernard Lamarche, mentioned page 26
Upon graduation in 1960 from the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, Jacques Hurtubise was awarded the Max Beckman Foundation Award, which enabled him to live in New York for eight months. Like other painters before him, such as Charles Gagnon, Guido Molinari and Claude Tousignant, Hurtubise’s exposure to Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline greatly influenced his manipulation of colour and form in his early works. In 1961, he produced a series of silkscreens with sweeping brush-strokes and coloured planes pushed away to the edges. However, the absence of structure inherent in Abstract Expressionism was, for Hurtubise, a problem that needed to be resolved.
Hurtubise returned to the “action painting” of the American movement after a period of experimentation where he followed the Plasticiens in Quebec. With renewed focus, Hurtubise controlled all the nervous splatters of paint by cutting or dissecting them on the canvas. With masking tape and an exacto knife, Hurtubise sought to control free gestures and to compose with splashes. He engaged in a constant search for a reconciliation between hard-edge and gestural approaches to painting. Sirose, from 1975, is an excellent example of this evolution of Hurtubise’s painting towards a complex harmony.
By 1975, Hurtubise was already acclaimed across Canada and abroad. He represented his country at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1965 and 1967, and in 1968 he participated in a prestigious exhibition in Scotland entitled Canada 101: Edinburgh International Festival alongside 22 other artists, including Michael Snow and Jack Bush. During this period, Hurtubise introduced a new element in his painting – a grid. Divided into multiple small sections, Hurtubise's paintings are filled with geometric forms in electric colours—as, for example, in Monique (1970), in the collection of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. He also created a series of paintings organized around rectangular patches in a hypnotic black. Ostensoire (1972), in the Canada Council Art Bank collection, is a work that perfectly encapsulates this period. Then, Hurtubise took the gridded format even further, by enlisting assistants to create hundreds of small identical canvases. Hurtubise started to compose his paintings with interchangeable blocks.
Sirose is divided into three rows of six small canvases, each canvas measuring 16 x 16 inches. This artwork is a rare representation of this technique, mastered over the years. In the 1970s Hurtubise re-engaged with Abstract Expressionism. The red, yellow and black drippings and pink daubs on the canvas appear as an opportune accident, but nothing is left to chance. Sirose’s bottom row is covered in multicoloured drippings, but the strokes do not align with the drips from the middle section. With large brushes, Hurtubise readjusts the trajectories of his drippings; with masking tape, he covers sections of the canvas; and with paint he erases all the signs of hesitation. Hurtubise would often say: “The more spontaneous the paintings seem to be, the more structured they really are.”
Formed from 18 modular paintings, Sirose is both a synthesis of previous hard-edge work and a point of departure for the development of Hurtubise’s new period. Sirose, a work that has never before left the artist’s collection, was a sure indication that the artist was moving more towards a series that would, 23 years later, be described by François-Marc Gagnon as one of the best bodies of work in the artist’s entire career (see his text in Hurtubise’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts retrospective catalogue in 1998).
Simonne (1975), in the collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, or Tanganita (1976), in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts collection, bear strong connections in style, colour and paint application to Sirose. The masterpiece of this new series is Tapocalips (1978), gifted to the National Gallery of Canada in 2012. Installed, this piece, covered with red, pink and black sweeping gestures of acrylic and charcoal, measures 120 x 384 inches. Hurtubise liked to say, “I want a painting that, when you look at it, it strikes you right out.” Undoubtedly, the transitional character of Sirose imbues it with great historical significance, not to mention that it is a striking composition.
We thank Lisa Bouraly, curator, collections manager and museologist, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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