Foire d'Empoigne, 1978
acrylic on canvas, 20" × 26"
Pierre Gauvreau Artist Biography
Pierre Gauvreau and Janine Carreau outside their
country home, 2009
Shortly after Simon Dresdnere moved his gallery from Montreal, determined to introduce Toronto art lovers to abstract painting from Quebec, he offered Gauvreau a solo exhibition at his Hazelton Avenue Gallery in 1979. To mark the 30th Anniversary of Pierre Gauvreau's first solo show in Toronto in the exact same building that now houses Gallery Gevik, we are pleased to present a retrospective of choice works.
As an early disciple of Paul-Emile Borduas (inspiring the nickname "[the] born painter"), Gauvreau alongside Jean-Paul Riopelle exhibited together in an international Surrealists show in France (1951). Gauvreau was a signatory of the famous manifesto, Refus Global (Total Refusal), formed and published in 1948 by the Automatistes (1940s) and led by Borduas. The manifesto rejected formal academic strains of teaching and the Automatistes were heavily influenced by Surrealism and automatism. Of all the members, Gauvreau's favouritism towards a subconscious approach to painting: the freshness, the immediacy, and the freedom, solidified his work as "avant-garde". In 1977, after a hiatus of more than ten years during which his energies were absorbed by film and television, Gauvreau's colours intensified, his canvases grew larger, and he began working in a style that combined his earlier gestural brushwork with shapes and techniques associated usually with colour field and hard-edged painting: large areas of bright colour, geometric shapes, and the use of tape and collage to give sharply designated edges. Luxe, calme, et volupte (Luxury, calm, and sensual pleasure) is the earliest example in this Retrospective.
- 1941 Drawings and paintings, Jesuit Hall; Meets Borduas
- 1943 Les Sagittaires, Dominion Gallery, Montreal
- 1946 Borduas Group, Boas Dance Studio, New York
- First Automatistes Exhibition, 1257 Amherst Street, Montreal
- 1951 Rixes - 10 Surrealist Paintings, Jan to July, Galerie Evrard, Lille, France
- 1971-72 Borduas et les Automatistes, Montreal, 1942-1955. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, France
- 1978 Modern Painting in Canada: The Collective Unconscious. The Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, AB
- 1979 Frontiers of Our Dreams: Quebec Paintings in the 1940s and the 1950s, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB
- 1980 Contemporary Arts Society, Montreal 1939-1948. The Edmonton Art Gallery, Travelling Exhibition: Calgary, Windsor, Montreal
- 1981 Pierre Gauvreau: The First Decade 1944-1954. Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, ON, curated by Karen Wilkin
- 1982 Les Estheteiques Modernes au Quebec de 1916 to 1946. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
- 1983 Le Musee du Quebec: 50 ans d'Acquisitions, 500 major works of their Permanent Collection, Quebec
- 1988 Borduas et ses Contemporains. Galerie Waddington-Gorce, Montreal, QC Refus Global et ses Environs. National Library of Quebec, Montreal, QC
- National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
- The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON
- The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, ON
- Musee des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, QC
- The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON
When I met Pierre Gauvreau and had the opportunity to tour his studio, I was somewhat surprised that such fierce, adventurous painting could be the product of such a private, gentle man. As I spoke with him and his wife Janine at their expansive Eastern Township home, however, it became clear to me that behind his gentle countenance was the soul of a revolutionary part poet, political activist, academic, and artist, Pierre Gauvreau's strength is attested to in his vast contribution to Canadian art and culture over the last seventy years.
Along with Borduas and his fellow rebels, Pierre Gauvreau helped spearhead the Automatistes movement a reaction to the repressive strangehold held by the clerics over French Canadian culture. The Automatistes aesthetic, which places an importance on creation derived from the unconscious, is present in the unwavering experimental nature of Gauvreau's work. His paintings of the last thirty years are stunning abstractions featuring some of the most complex colour shading I've ever seen. It pained me, as I toured his studio, to choose the pieces for this exhibition, as I found all of them to be profoundly inspiring. Gauvreau's work is a testament to his prodigious talent, commanding he continue to paint at least two-three hours a day despite his age.
For Gauvreau, art-making is his greatest pleasure, and so it is impossible for him not to do so. I, myslef, am a life-long collector and am so honoured to re-introduce him to Toronto's art community in the very gallery where he had his last solo exhibition twenty-five years ago. His work, though strongly rooted in the past, bears a style and content that point toward the future and so he is a fitting addition to our roster of artists whose work I would like to think represents a microcosm of perspectives and cultures. I could not have held this exhibition without the help of some dedicated people. Thank you to Justin Giallonardo for his editorial contribution. Thanks also goes to Janine Carreau for her outstanding photographs and for keeping the most extraordinarily organized studio I've ever seen. Finally, thank you to Gauvreau himself, whose dazzling, playful, deeply serious works have inspired generations of artists and admirers.
Phillip Gevik, Director