Danse carrée: Once Upon a Square, 1964 (November) - 1965 (January)
Inscriptionsinscribed, signed, titled and dated (verso)
ProvenanceMartha Jackson Gallery, New York; An Important Montreal Collecation. / Martha Jackson Gallery, New York; Importante collection particulière, Montréal.
LiteratureFor a similar work, see:
J. Russell Harper, Painting in Canada: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966), cat. no. 364, reproduced in colour p. 401 as "Yves Gaucher: Danse carrée: Un bleu me l'a dit, 30" x 30", 1965, Collection of the artist."
Of the aforementioned work, Harper comments:
"Certain Plasticiens, while retaining geometric shapes, introduced new colour effects by creating optical vibrations with sizzling colour. The image of some painters so burns itself into the retina that it remains after the viewer looks away. [...] Yves Gaucher has [...] turned to the new style as a painter; he creates instability by hanging his canvases at an angle, uses grey grounds overlaid with brilliant mauve, orange or green triangles, and juxtaposes colours so bright and insistent that they imprint themselves on the very soul" (p. 412 & 414).
PublicationsNathalie Garneau, "Collection 1: Yves Gaucher, Les Danses carrées", Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, 2005, p. 1.
"Music and poetry had more influence on me than painting. Especially the music of Webern. I wanted to do in engraving what he had done in music: elaborate a visual rhythm with counter rhythms created by the striking effect of colour." - Yves Gaucher
Originally known as a printmaker, Yves Gaucher enjoyed early success. Gaucher attended l'École des beaux-arts from 1954 to 1956, and a year later returned to study printmaking under Albert Dumouchel. Quite a successful printmaker, Gaucher participated and won prizes in international print exhibitions before his acclaim as a unique abstract painter. In 1957, Gaucher had his first solo exhibition at Galerie l'échange in Montreal. In 1960, he founded l'Associations des Peintures-Gravures de Montréal.
In the early 1960s, Yves Gaucher moved away from printmaking and rediscovered Modernists such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. Two particular events shaped Gaucher's artistic career and the Plasticien painter he is known as today. During a visit to the Mark Rothko retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Gaucher was deeply stirred by what he encountered. It is during this period that Gaucher realized during a Paris visit in 1962, that he was more of a French-speaking North American than French and his work more closely resembled contemporary New York than European art. He began to use a single straight line in his oeuvres and took an interest in geometry, where he used his known "signals" including horizontal lines, squares, gashes with the intention of making the eye move from one point to the other to create a unique experience for the observer. Critic Françoise de Repentigny astutely described how Gaucher 'communicates with a transcendental art, the result of an ascetic process…(The Plasticiens and Beyond, p. 87).
In 1962, Gaucher became fascinated with Anton Webern's music, so far as to influence his work, and pay tribute to the artist by creating a piece "En Hommage à Webern no. 2". Gaucher created his first important paintings as a result of this inspirational rush, namely "Danses carrées" in 1964. He married Germaine Chaussé the same year. It is also in 1964 and 1965 that Gaucher dedicated his time exclusively to painting.
Gaucher began his series of Grey on Grey paintings in December 1967. Recognized as his finest work, the Grey on Grey works evoke calm and reflectiveness and as James Campbell describes, "requires looking hard" (Campbell, p57). Gaucher's series are meant to be carefully and thoroughly examined and require intense concentration which allows each painting to come alive and reveal its secrets to the observer. Indeed, he himself described the Grey on Grey as non-entities or non-objects and maintained that details came forth with analysis. He executed over 60 Grey on Grey over a period of two years, until 1969.
Gaucher later explored mathematical and spatial relationships and in 1970 painted broad horizontal stripes in bright colours, also known as colour band painting. The Dark Paintings of 1980s and Pale Paintings period followed, one in which Gaucher experienced a renewal in his work.
Gaucher also taught at Concordia University at the end of his artistic career and was nominated to the Order of Canada.
James D. Campbell, "The Asymmetric Vision: Philosophical Intuition and Original Experience in the Art of Yves Gaucher", Mackenzie Art Gallery: Regina, 1989.
Roald Nasgaard and Michel Martin, "The Plasticiens and Beyond: Montreal, 1955-1970", Varley Art Gallery of Markham and Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec.
National Gallery of Canada, Yves Gaucher, retrieved from http://www.gallery.ca/en/see/collections/artist.php?iartistid=1967
The Canadian Encyclopedia, Yves Gaucher retrieved from http://
Roald Nasgaard, "Abstract Painting in Canada", Douglas & McIntyre: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2007.