9.14.2009

What I Saw This Summer, Part 8: Montreal Studio Visits with Yechel Gagnon and Alexandre Masino

Marketing Mondays will be back on the 21st. In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy my accounts of What I Saw This Summer

Yechel Gagnon and Alexandre Masino were my Montreal hosts. They not only put me up, they drove me around the city, so I got much more than a tourist’s eye view of the city. It turned out they both had work on public view in the city, so not only did I get to see art in Montreal, I got to see their art.

And not only did I get to see their art in public, I got to visit their studios. (Gagnon and Masino built a studio behind their home, a light-filled, two-story contemporary box that fits in perfectly with its surroundings. Each artist works very differently, so while their spaces may have the same configuration, each setup is quite different.) .

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Yechel Gagnon's Osmose, 2006-2007, carved plywood, 12 x 40 feet, installed in the Jean-Coutu Pavilion, University of Montreal

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We begin with Gagnon, who has an enormous permanent installation in the school of Pharmacy of the University of Montreal, above. Gagnon works in carved plywood. Her installation, Osmose, is 12 by 40 feet, installed in the four-story-high center of the Jean-Coutu Pavilion. Viewable from balconies on three levels, it’s the only artwork in the space, which is exactly as it should be—just the architecture and this enormous relief work. There’s a landscape quality to it, like a Japanese brush painting, with a delicacy of line—surprising given the scale and the means by which the work is carved: with a router. The dark passages are the glue used to bind the layers of ply. The fluid quality provides a welcome counterpoint to the rectilinearity of the space.
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Gagnon with her work
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Back in her studio, across the St. Lawrence in Longueuil, Gagnon has several commissions underway. Gagnon is a thorough planner, with numerous sketches and meticulous maquettes, as you would expect from one who wins numerous commissions. Much of her work is commissioned through percent-for-art programs. It's an understatement to say that Canada is enlightened in its support of the arts.
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The corner detail above shows you the surface of Gagnon's work
Below: a corner of the ground-floor studio
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The just-completed work above is ready for delivery and installation. Note the full-size ink drawing next to it and the maquette on the floor
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The maquette, above, and a series of small ink drawings from which the large one was selected
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Another maquette, above. Note the distinctly non-industrial color in the layers




Above: That plywood in the foreground is going to be the sculpture you see in the maquette. But it’s not just any plywood. It’s custom made. By layering veneers of different-color or different-grained woods, Gagnon is able to introduce hue into the work on her own terms
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Below, some samples of the veneers Gagnon uses
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Now let's walk upstairs to Masino's studio. From the landing you can look down to Gagnon's studio and up to Masino's. Let's walk in.
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Right away I liked the flexibility of Masino's setup: planks on sawhorses, which can be easily configured from project to project. And, of course, I loved the light. Masino is a representational painter—still lifes, landscapes-- who works in encaustic. Like others who work in this medium, he’s more or less tethered to the heat source, which keeps the wax paint molten and thus workable.

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View into Masino's studio
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The artist uses a double-boiler system: cans of paint set into pots of water, below
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Masino with a tray of paint in cans (artists who work in encaustic do work differently from oil painters)
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Below, the impressive shelving with paint tins and pigment. The stacked cakes of translucent white wax are encaustic medium, a mix of beeswax damar resin
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The easel, above, and its prodigiously textured surface:





I’ll show you some of Masino's paintings in a moment, but first let’s look at the exhibition at Espace Creation in which Masino’s work and studio are featured. Called L’oeuvre et la maniere—work and process—each wall presents an almost life-size photograph of an artist’s studio with actual works displayed. “The studio allows the viewer a peek into the secret universe of creation,” writes the curator. Or, as the text says above Masino’s section of wall, “a place of order and apocalypse.” (Don’t you love that artists are accorded an almost godlike power?)
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Espace Creation is supported by Loto-Quebec, which acquires work for its collection and exhibits it in its own gallery. That's right: lottery money pays for art! Don't you love Canada?
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At Espace Creation, a view of Masino's studio with actual paintings at left
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Below, just to give you a bit of the rest of the show, a view from the opposite wall (sorry, I don't have the name of this artist). The trompe l'oeil mix of photograph and actual object is kind of trippy, though I'm sure the curators were aiming for a you-are-there effect, as opposed to you-are-there-on-acid. Interesting either way.
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Above, an exquisite still life
Below, Les vagues bercent le ciel, 2005, encaustic on board, 16 x 19 inches
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This large painting, shown at Boon Gallery in Salem, Mass., in 2005, is from a series called Sanctuaire.
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7 comments:

natalie said...

i know yechel gagnon's work. i've love it for years! i'm so envious, joanne... so envious. she's on my list of must haves. thank you so much for posting.

Hylla said...

It's just the way I imagined their studios. Alexandre's painting arrived two days ago and you could get lost in it. Stunning, important and luscious - how can this be all in one painting? It hangs above my desk and keeps me humble if I start to think I can paint.
My word verification is 'hamago.' Ha ma go see them in 2010.

sky pape said...

I'm speechless. Make that doubly speechless! I value the "how to" information you share here, but your insider's "who's doing" is fabulous. Thank you for tuning me into two artists who are making work so worth following.

Nancy Natale said...

Fabulous post! How great to see the work, the studios and the artists.

Kateliz said...

Loved the post. However I am wondering if you are unaware of the percent for art to be found in many states, New York State and Oregon, from my personal experience. On the topic of funding for the arts, do you plan to comment on the current debate on the roll of the NEA in calling for the creation of political art for Obama?

Joanne Mattera said...

Kateliz,

Yes, I'm aware that percent-for-art programs exist here, but I don't know the particulars.

No, I'm not planning to comment on the NEA. If I were blogging full time, I'd cover everything, but I'm a working artist who carves out a bit of time to blog.

Kateliz said...

Yes, I can imagine. I don't know how you keep up now. I frequently make time to check in and reading your blog is often my mid morning "treat" with a cup-a-joe. I have your book as well and have found it to be so well researched and such a huge help to so many artists. It was a huge gift to us and we artists working in encaustic are extremely grateful.
I guess my concern is that the NEA is the ONLY big nationally supported and funded agency that in turn is who represents and occasionally funds artists. It is undoubtedly the most important agency to all artists but maybe even more so to visual artists and especially those engaged in less traditional and/or more experimental media. Your opinion could go a long way to illuminating the debate for artists. But anyway, thanks for your excellent efforts in all aspects of art.