While landscape is readily recognized as a wellestablished genre within the broader tradition of painting, one that has gone through various stylistic schools and periods, it nevertheless fits in perfectly, in a seemingly natural way, with the different spheres of contemporary art. For since the focus today is on the environment, ecological disruption and the precarious fate of the planet, landscape—whether solitary, grand, empty of life, manufactured … or abstract—pervades the current imagination: it continues to give rise to as many paintings, sculptures, drawings and installations as ever, aptly and inventively conveying a genuine attachment to some of the main aspects of the landscape form of representation.
As part of its theme-based exhibitions of works from the Collection, the Musée presented an initial selection devoted to an exploration of landscape eight years ago, in fall 2000. Here, now, is a second look, comprising thirty or so works that all evoke, through the clarity of their subject matter and the clean efficiency of the visual devices they employ, certain elements of nature, spatial configurations or components of the built urban environment—enigmatic places imbued with the characteristics and idea of the imagined and reinvented space.
With their bold chromatic palettes and concise motifs, the luminous, spare paintings of John Lyman, Joyce Wieland, Jean-Paul Lemieux and Paterson Ewen immediately establish the parameters of an aesthetics of landscape that is indeed dominated by a re‑examination of the ideas (notions) of cycle of life, colour fields and variable horizons. The incredibly varied formal strategies displayed in the exhibition encompass connotation-filled allusions to the heavens (General Idea, Pierre Dorion, Rober Racine, Charles Gagnon, Jack Goldstein), the use of natural materials such as wood and water (Christiane Gauthier, Laurie Walker), and of a stylized depiction of trees, forests and various bodies of water (Walker, Jérôme Fortin, Sylvain Cousineau, Michel Goulet), the building of monumental models of cities, both ancient (Anne and Patrick Poirier) and vaguely retro-futuristic (Patrick Coutu), and explicit references to cartography, topography, dwellings and public furniture (Rober Racine, Guillermo Kuitca, Roland Poulin, Stephen Schofield). Evident through the array of styles and materials (plaster, cement, oxidized iron, granite, steel and watercolour) are conceptual advances in terms of space and time (Daniel Buren), density and openness (David Rabinowitch), exploration and utopia. And it is actually in the underlying accumulation of multiple layers of meanings, rather than in the effective and creative reappropriation of recognizable landmarks, that the polysemy of all these landscapes of ideas, spaces of discourse and experience, is revealed.