Yellow and red abstraction
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His meeting with Paul-Émile Borduas will have a profound impact on his artistic intentions. A trip to France, where he meets Jean-Paul Riopelle and Sam Francis, confirms his interest in abstraction. This European period is rich of contacts with painters who will influence his progress. McEwen's first major exhibition was held at the Galerie d'Agnès Lefort in Montreal in 1951. Four years later, in 1955, l'Actuelle, an art gallery created by the painter Guido Molinari and the journalist Fernande Saint-Martin opens his doors, which allows him to exhibit his paintings. It will be the beginning of a long exhibition period that will take him to several Canadian cities, Europe and the United States.
Read the full article on 1.10.60 by Jean Albert McEwen
''Classified as a successor to the Abstract Expressionist and influenced by Borduas, he nevertheless detached himself from him in 1955. McEwen traces his own path by focusing on the dynamic and chromatic effects that painting can produce. Indeed, his entire work is dedicated to "exploring the powers of color while structuring it, in order to grasp the effects of depth"2.
His method consists in working the paste with the fingers and superimposing layers of paint: "to cover a layer of color by another favors its sliding in depth, and makes it possible to obtain a vibrating space"3. He dilutes a lot of oil in the pigments, to the point of getting an almost clear mixture. The artist then applies his colors as a watercolor: by transparency4. As early as 1960, he also incorporated liquid varnishes to obtain material effects5. As early as 1960, he also incorporated liquid varnishes to obtain material effects6. These lacquers accentuate the game of depth with their different textures.
By using flat colors of hot and shimmering colors, McEwen realizes here a absolute accomplished, mature artwork. This accomplishment is reflected in a picture where opposites meet: the opaque versus the translucent, the line versus the network, the free form versus equilibrium and geometry. Fernande Saint-Martin compares this effect with "that lattice of lights and shadows formed by the passages of light in the branches and leaves"7 ."
3. Naubert-Risier, Constance (1987). Jean McEwen: la profondeur de la couleur: peintures et oeuvres sur papier, 1951-1987, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Montréal, p. 44.
4. Roberge, Gaston (1995). Autour de Jean McEwen. Le loup de gouttière, Québec, p.31.
5. Naubert-Risier, Constance (1987). Jean McEwen: la profondeur de la couleur: peintures et oeuvres sur papier, 1951-1987, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Montréal, p. 52.
6. Saint-Martin, Fernande (1973). Jean McEwen et l’impressionnisme abstrait. Vie des arts, 18 (72), p.51 - 54.
7. Naubert-Risier, Constance (1998). Jean McEwen: poèmes barbares. Les 400 coups, Laval, 151 p.
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Jean McEwen (1923 - 1999)
Yellow and red abstraction, 1960
Galerie Cosner au Ritz-Carlton Montréal
Oil on canvas
Post-War Canadian art
138,4 cm x 81,2 cm / 54 1/2'' x 32''
Signed lower left, dated on verso 1.10.60