Three hot Montreal galleries offer radically different art. From pretty pastel paintings of the Canadian west to rock star references and collector edition prints from a videographer/techie, from a renowned Quebec artist to a Canadian landscape legend, these works will amaze you…
CUTTING EDGE ART: One of my favourite galleries in the city is Galerie Donald Browne in the Belgo Building near Place des Arts. The gallery specializes in “cutting edge art,” explains owner Donald Browne, who has a great eye for emerging talent. How great? Well, he just took his artists to the Amsterdam Art Fair and sold almost everything. Browne’s current show is totally today. It references DJs and rock stars, while taking the viewer into techno land via twisted geometry. Here’s how.
I entered the gallery to see a large sculptural piece created from road cases. Yup, those big black boxes with heavy aluminum fastenings used to hold musicians’ gear. Artist Gabriel Coutu-Dumont cut up several of these square cases and created a ‘’tesseract – a depiction of the 4th dimension in 3D,’’ explained Browne. A cubic prism. Wow! As I wandered around the gallery, I note how the artist has used music as a theme for his pieces. And then I learnt why. First of all, his twin brother Guillaume is an internationally-touring DJ, invited to spin in hot spots around the world.
Secondly, the artist himself works in the music industry. He has created video projections for the live shows of such paparazzi-people as Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney and is currently preparing for Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show this fall. Wow again! Gabriel even shows us how to ‘see’ music. He has taken computer-generated sound waves and created sensational steel mirror-coated sculptures. The sharp, laser-cut pieces come in a variety of lengths. They are fabulous. Another black roadie box that Gabriel re-made is in the shape of a triangle, a nod to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The show is on until July 23.
COLLECTOR PRINTS: Artist Claude Tousignant is a Quebec star. Almost 80 years old, his work is referenced in art schools. His sharp-edged editions, recognizable by their solid colours and geometric shapes, are in corporate, public and private collections.
Tousignant’s work usually sells out, but you can find wonderful pieces for re-sale at Galerie Art Mûr. The gallery carries both Tousignant’s latest works as well as secondary market. (Tip: Buy one when you can. Prices go up annually in the secondary market.) My favourite Tousignant is the ‘Target’, with its resonating circular colours. He created a series. One has complementary colours: It literally vibrates from across a crowded room. This famous piece is a signed edition of 80, and it seldom comes up for re-sale, so this a great time to visit this gallery when you are in Montreal. Partly pop art and partly op art, this signed and numbered piece is as famous as Tousignant himself. Along with the circular editions, there are also some beautiful geometric forms, their rich colours floating freely across the paper. Art Mûr specializes in Canadian contemporary art, though they are branching out to also carry international artists. In fact, the founders and gallery owners now represent the Gao Brothers, the famed Chinese duo. The gallery is a bit off the beaten track, but well worth the trip.
CANADIAN LANDSCAPE PAINTINGS: Although it has often been said that ‘painting is dead’, Dorothy Knowles has been successful for over 60 years. Her large paintings, in oils, acrylics and water colours depict the Canadian west.
Knowles depicts nature in all its glory. There are never any people in her paintings. Her works are slightly Impressionist in their hazy capture of light, but her brush-strokes are solid and not at all airy as she builds her pictures from the soaring vast blue skies to tiny grass blades and reeds. Her work is calming. As I walked in from the hot sidewalk on a June day, I felt the cool of the lakes she paints so invitingly in soft, alluring blues. Most of the landscapes are portrayed in pretty pastels. I note that this is not a harsh nature that the artist captures, but soft, perfect-for-the-living-room scenes. She studied art at night school over 50 years ago. At that time, the influential art critic Clement Greenberg convinced her to continue her landscapes, even though her realism went against the art mood of the moment: abstraction. Knowles has travelled all over the prairies and Rockies for her inspiration, but the parklands of northern Saskatchewan with their rolling plains, rivers and valleys are her favourites. To give you an idea of the huge popularity of this artist, the prices range from $3,900 to $63,000. (And yes, the $63,000 one was sold!) I love the titles. They say it all: Ruffled Lake, Fireweed and Goldenrod, Rising Clouds, Before the Rain, and Changing Light are but a few. Changing Light is, indeed, a perfect description of her works, as she captures just that with an incredible lightness of painting. You can explore Dorothy Knowles’s landscapes until July 10 at the Han Gallery.
Galerie Donald Browne 372 Sainte-Catherine Street West, (5th floor, #528), 514-380-3221
Galerie Art Mur, 5826 Saint-Hubert Street, 514-933-0711
Han Gallery, 4209 Sainte-Catherine Street West, 514-876-9278