Stochastique en vert
by Claude Tousignant, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 112 cm x 224 cm
Claude Tousignant began his career at a time when abstraction and experimentation were becoming part of the Montreal art scene thanks to groups such as the Automatistes and Plasticiens.
After studying at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s School of Art and Design from 1948 to 1951, he held his first solo exhibition in 1956 at Galerie L’Actuelle. It followed a show by fellow abstract painter Guido Molinari, who had launched the Montreal gallery a year earlier. Both painters sought to explore the possibilities of their medium not only outside of its representative, decorative, and symbolist uses but also beyond the experiments of their Montreal forerunners and the abstract painters then coming to prominence in New York.
Their emphasis was on the painting as an object in itself, simply to be visually experienced — rather than intellectually interpreted or spatially comprehended. Each produced works with few colours and used the vibrant automobile enamels that were available in the 1950s. Their use of the masking tape that was included in the car-paint kits contributed to their work being labelled “hard-edge” abstraction.
By the 1960s, Tousignant was pushing the dynamic effects of painting in new directions, and he produced several series involving concentric circles. Their names, such as Gongs
and Accélérateurs chromatiques (Chromatic Accelerators), signal the experience of movement and vibration produced by the juxtaposition of carefully chosen adjacent colours.
These works were often painted on circular canvases, and their intended effects are encountered when a viewer spends time stationary in front of a painting. One might experience pulses, rotation, or even chaotic reverberations that result from the interplay of colour and duration.
Stochastique en vert ( Stochastic in Green) was painted on a rectangular canvas in 1965, the year Tousignant and Molinari were included in an influential exhibition of abstract art at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The painting’s title derives from Tousignant’s interest in composer Iannis Xenakis’s use of mathematics in avant-garde musical composition, again suggesting the rhythmic and dynamic possibilities of chromatic experience.