Yves Gaucher

With the emergence of his new “Pale Series,” 1988–89, Montreal-based painter Yves Gaucher has brought full circle his 25-year-long preoccupation with color. Using pale blues, light violets, and grayish mauves, rusts, and greens, Gaucher paints on a monumental scale––his canvases can reach 20 feet in length. The paintings are sectioned off into four or five vertical surfaces of flat, even color presented in a sequential progression. By now, his use of diagonal abutments has become a formula which serves almost as a hallmark, distinguishing his paintings from those of others working in a minimalist vein. This new series marks a departure from his former preoccupation with deeper tonalities. Gaucher’s shift in palette is by no means a simple restatement of paintings gone by; rather, it represents a subtle reworking of his formal vocabulary.

Gaucher draws inspiration from a variety of sources: the experiential painting, the monuments in Egypt, the abstraction of Islamic architecture in North Africa, and the phenomenon of nature itself. Because these paintings are not established on an elaborate system of mathematics or color theory, they are more personal than formal in tone, drawing on a reservoir of recollection and associations. The “Pale Series” is a conduit between the viewer and subjective experience; the works serve as a medium to transfer this communication. Gaucher’s small studies on paper, which make up an appendix to the exhibition, act as a marker for the larger works. These studies have a translucent quality that, until now, was not present in the full-scale paintings. Both studies and canvases give a sense of light emanating from within. The paintings, hung low to the floor, hover as if floating in their spatial surround.

Gaucher’s paintings, from the beginning, have always been closer in sensibility to the pared-down Minimalist works of Ellsworth Kelly than to the brushy abstraction which characterized Canadian painting in the ’70s. These new works solidify Montreal’s reputation for abstract painting. Gaucher has given his audience not only a vantage point from which to glimpse the shifting modulations of his work, but a view to its own horizons.

Linda Genereux