Martin Bourdeau

Works in the exhibition

Galerie Division is pleased to present a new solo exhibition by Montreal-based artist, Martin Bourdeau.  Bourdeau’s past work has explored the critical apparatus surrounding painting, using a vocabulary of minimalist abstraction to examine the way we consume and interpret art.  In his new show, Bourdeau presents paintings of fictional exhibition catalogues, blurring the line between art and its reproduction, between an exhibition and its documentation.  The artist looks at the context in which a painting exists, questioning whether direct contact with an artwork has lost importance in our age of disposable images and media-proliferation.  Using his well-honed language of minimalist forms, he reclaims painting from the purview of reproduction, pitting citation against creation, abstract ideas against visceral fact.  

 In Catalogue No. 4 (Night Blinks) the red numerals of a digital clock mark the passage of a sleepless night.  With their temporal frankness, the paintings recall the conceptual pragmatism of On Kawara’s Today paintings.  However, in Bourdeau’s catalogues the digits skew into blackness, their meaning sliding off into vacuous monochrome.  Time is not at all certain here, and the catalogues - made of as-of-yet-realized paintings - are closer to preparatory notebooks than to historical records.  The red numbers speak not of sleep lost or time passed, but of a promising creative moment the artist has yet to seize.

In Catalogue No. 2 and Catalogue No. 7, pictures of Bourdeau's bare studio walls appear on each catalogue page.  Like the catalogues themselves, these pictures are records of painting – either of work that has left the studio, or ideas yet to be realized.  Unmoored in time, the puzzling images become records of past or future work, their temporal ambiguity a rebuke to easy classification.  Even Bourdeau’s fine-brushed realism defies easy understanding, its fay, Twombly-like scribblings alive with lyrical abstraction.  

Catalogue No. 9 and Catalogue No. 10 depict squares and rectangles painted with consumer-grade house paint.  Their titles – “Silence” and “Clouded Vision” -- are the names given to each colour by its respective paint company and highlight our need to classify everything from home décor to high art.  We recognize these colour swatches from Bourdeau’s past work, and their particular commercial names evoke an absence of sight or sound.  Withholding sensory cues and quieting the catalogue’s authoritative voice, Bourdeau challenges us to abandon language and appreciate his enigmatic colour fields on their own terms.   

 Martin Bourdeau has had solo exhibitions at Galerie Roger Bellemare and Galerie Division in Montreal, Arsenal Toronto, and Kulturwerk T66, in Freiburg, and has been featured in group shows in Canada and abroad.  Bourdeau's work is represented in many collections, including the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, TD Canada Trust, the Canada Art Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, Hydro-Québec and Loto-Québec.  He was the subject of a monograph by curator Roald Nasgaard, who also included Bourdeau in his seminal work, Abstract Painting in Canada.

For more information on the artist