Stochas­tique en vert

by Claude Tousig­nant, 1965, acrylic on can­vas, 112 cm x 224 cm

Canada's History - - CURRENTS - — Phil Koch

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.

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