In recent years, though he is called an heir to “Action Painting,” Robert Deschênes has drawn inspiration both from new figuration and from “Zenga” Zen expressionism, moving from abstraction to figuration while remaining true to himself. He thus follows no particular movement, other than movements of the imagination, which he broaches in every possible way. If a succession of breaths, cries, words, sentences, and discourse gives rise to the human, what can be said of image, stroke, spot, shadow, and light? These are the subtle confession of feeling etched upon the walls to keep an imprint of life, more akin to silence than to speech. It always seems impossible for Deschênes to speak of it. His paintings seek nothing more than to express a wordless existence.
“I conceive a painting in order to capture a vision that impresses itself upon me. The image springs from the gesturality, not from thought. Before painting, I have no prior intention for the work to be. I am not trying to actualize myself through the work. Tuning my senses to the purest awareness of each gesture, no other dimension than that which emerges will match this inner reality. Although I am present, in my handling the brushes, in my physical posture, in the ideas going through my head, from the first stroke to the signing, the painting is created in spite of me. Only the painting emerging on its own terms can respect the integrity of the vision. That is when the free man within me smiles at this moment. I am concerned with neither figuration nor abstraction, with neither spare sobriety nor overloaded busyness, and even less with either impressing or shocking anybody.”
These paintings examine the origins of humankind, proposing a visual rendition of man’s connection to himself, and tend to reveal soul, inner being, the unconscious, or interiority. “Metaphor is an integral part of the inner thought that shapes them. In a sense, although I’m not seeking anything, unconsciously I am attempting to grasp being in its symbolic inner space. An apparent controlled free flow, a configuration that suggests the sensibility of a being in transformation.” His paintings aspire to existence rather than to merely appearing. In each, he invests all the spontaneity, frenzy, and passion that he would if he were taking his last steps among the living.
Robert Deschênes was born in Montréal, in 1950. Since 1974, he constructs theatre sets for Radio-Canada (Madame Bovary), Gilles Carle (Manon Last Call), Le Théâtre du Rideau Vert (Cantique des Cantiques), l’Opéra de Québec (Seraglio) and for the Place-des-Arts of Montréal (La flûte enchantée). In 1975, he opens Galerie Gueul’Art while, still developing his artistic practice. In 1983, at the Old Quebéc Festival, he realizes, for the organization Carbone 14, a fresco named Baby. He also signs the scenic realization of the play Le Rail presented at L’Espace Libre (Montréal). In 1984, he creates an installation made of more than a hundred painted cars called Océan large, also for Carbone 14. In 1985, he gets his artistic recognition with the painting Charges d’éléphants. Between 1985 and 1989, Deschênes lives and works in France. The artist exposes his artworks in his workshop (Quais de la Loire, in Paris) and at L’Espace contemporain de la Bastille, La Délégation culturelle du Québec à Paris, l’Atelier Place d’Art (Paris) and at Galerie Michel Guinle in Lyon. A retrospective of his works related to cars is also organized the same year in Tours. In 1987, monumental artworks and a series of performances (Car/casse) are conceived for an exhibition at Château Fontenay-les-Bris (R.A.T.P.). Also in 1987, one of Deschênes’ performances created especially for Canal + is presented in Paris during the Winter Circus. By the end of 1989, Robert Deschênes comes back to Québec. He writes À l’heure des chiens sans laisse, an unpublished book. Since 1999, the artist begins to experiment with abstraction. His artworks are exhibited mostly in Québec at the Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides, Galerie Bernard, Galerie Récréation and at Magog-Art contemporain.
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