Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Powerhouse Abstract: The Art of Guy Dufresne, 2007 article for CJ

Entering Lot 66 on Port Arthur’s downtown Court Street you may get the impression that a curator from the National Gallery stopped by and generously donated some of the galleries best modernist works. The energy, richness, and size of the abstract acrylic paintings have such a command presence that they take over the room. They demand contemplation. 

These new works by local artist Guy Dufresne suit their lounge setting. They are two-dimensional explosions, simultaneously expansive and contained. Nearly indistinguishable from oils they are rich paintings that complement the deep maize coloured walls. The paintings are dark, yet energetically moody. Their only drawback is that they suck up some of the minimal light and seem to sink deeply into the walls in an atmosphere that is sexy and sophisticated. 

Where there is light from the few small fixtures, and when seen in daylight, the intermixed colours of the paintings burst forth. There are subtleties in the deftly handled paint that have the professional artist’s love of richness and movement. 

A series of larger works reveal the experimental side of an artist falling in love and exploring possible permutations of a visual theme. Guy refers to the central white vertical streaks in these paintings as “canals.” The intention is to explore the basic properties of painting; movement, texture, balance, colour. In their near nonrepresentational impressionistic manner they could be considered classic abstract art, art that took hold back in the 1950s where emotional expression dominated over recognizable images or heady theory. This is the kind of modernist-purist painting requiring skill and daring, where the intentions are obvious instead of inferred, unlike many post-modernist works relying solely on ideology. Guy’s paintings speak of endurance and talent, not overwrought thought. One result is that a sense of play permeates the work.

But the paintings overall reflect a deeper mood, an adult reflection in ones’ own life. One painting conflicted by the desire to play, and the need to reflect is called “Ice Meets Metal,” a phrase from a Tom Cochrane song. The de Kooning feel is accomplished by the contrast of beautiful blues with bloody slashes of red. At once playful and shocking the painting looks like it might be a detail of a crime scene. 

Guy describes his working methods as intense. To accomplish this current show at Lot 66 he spent two months of powerhouse painting with both brushes and palette knives. He says he has no fear “slamming down the paint”, which results in being covered in various spatters of colour, as evidenced by his work cloths and chaotic studio. Like most good artists he “zones out” when he works and doesn’t wait for inspiration to hit him. He sets to work, attacks the white canvas without fear of it, and demands results from the effort. 

Within the swirls of paint there are impressions of his favorite influences – namely trees, landscapes, cityscapes, water and sky. A few of his favorite artists include Monet, Gauguin, and Gerhard Richter. In terms of style he is all over the map, but his various approaches are all identifiably his. Broken horizontal lines and streaks in the bigger paintings suggest a horizon lines. Impressionist cityscapes are similar to the landscapes. A love of intermingling colours and direction can be seen in all his paintings.

Unlike many artists, he enjoys talking with friends while he paints. His affability is a quality that helps him in his regular job as an advertising representative for this newspaper. His layout and design skills, partly acquired by his artistic background, help to build trust with his clients. His clean-cut good looks, professional attire and manner won’t give you the impression that he has an artistic temperament. People are genuinely surprised that he considers himself an artist at heart. His black suits might be a hint. 

And like so many artists Guy has the fantasy of living through his paintings, leaving a legacy to his children and the community. His says his next steps are to market to larger cities, find a gallery, an agent, and hold more shows of his work. Subsequently, more powerhouse painting is in order.

No comments:

Post a Comment