This new display of the permanent collection features a dozen remarkable works by ten artists who are well known on the international, Canadian and Québec scenes. Leading figures in their respective disciplines, these major artists—Anselm Kiefer, Paterson Ewen and Ron Martin (painting); Roland Poulin (sculpture); Jeff Wall, Arnaud Maggs, Angela Grauerholz and Roberto Pellegrinuzzi (photography); Gary Hill and Nam June Paik (video)—incorporate into the specific nature of a medium aesthetic and visual considerations drawn from the very sources of history and the human experience, at the same time as they challenge its defining qualities and manners. Alternately spare and spectacular, concise and lyrical, these highly substantial works take us literally right to the heart of things.
The pictorial material may be solid, meaningful and agitated (Martin), more rarefied, vaguely schematic and highly evocative (Ewen), or characterized by a dark, dense yet immaterial, sculptural polychromy (Poulin); paradoxically, however, the relative economy of colour, which is in keeping with a certain symbolic rigour, also emphasizes the excesses and extremes, while preserving the vibrancy of the works’ impressions. In different ways, the photographic images of Grauerholz, Wall and Maggs interpret the major genres—landscape, staged and genre scenes, and portraits: out of blurred or sepia images, striking isolation (of the person) and clinical repetition (of the face of Joseph Beuys), they create masterly, moving, sublime pictures. Offering its own tribute to Beuys, the assemblage put together by video art pioneer Nam June Paik succinctly transposes to canvas the immediacy of a media performance, an electronic image and traditional Asian statuary. As its title implies, Gary Hill’s Dervish emanates from a gyrating device (like the whirling dervish turning round and round during incantatory rituals) that gives rise to a rapid, staccato sequence of images and sounds shattered in the throbbing darkness. The force of attraction and almost contemplative, but intense, nature of this imposing video installation find an unexpected echo, both current and transhistorical, in the utter serenity and extraordinary evocative power of Anselm Kiefer’s painting Die Frauen der Antike (Women of Antiquity).