While the square was present in Jacques Hurtubise’s work in 1967, the artist would only fully adopt it as a primary structural element in the 1970s, most notably in his large polyptychs composed of small canvases of equal height and width. Eventually, however, this geometric shape would be relegated to the background, and by 1977 it played only a supporting role, serving as a phantom grid underpinning the linear motifs and chromatic contrasts that dominate the otherwise neutral pictorial space, as is the case with Tawagamie (1977). Combining impulse and rigour, the paintings that evolved from this approach multiplied the splash motif, portraying it from multiple angles, a controlled spatter frozen in a movement of torsion, slipping and falling. During this period, references to landscape are accompanied by a liberation of line and form, which, once diluted by the flow of the acrylic and defined by the smeared charcoal, are marked by precise gestures—by this blazing paint and its attractive power. Lorna Farrel‑Ward states, “A variety of tones and shifting volumes combine with an opening of some areas and blurring of others. The energy and binding of forms into a balanced compositional structure [. . .] is due to an assimilation of experience and skill of paint handling. I feel some of his best work can be seen in this period.”
Hurtubise made painting itself his primary focus, abstracting his subject matter in nervous, repetitive gestures, and imitating the landscape motif without rendering it in a figurative language. Losing none of their fluidity, the forms contrast subtly with the grid produced by the juxtaposed canvas squares. The notion of grass, of flame, and of the splash is supplanted by the actual medium, docile and rebellious at once; the “real” landscape is absorbed behind these oranges, pinks, and blacks. That is to say, figuration steps away, yielding its place to pure, uncompromised energy. A high‑tension painting, a pièce de résistance from an oeuvre of a power not often seen, Tawagamie resonates like the name of an imaginary land, much like Tamiami (1976), Tamazonie (1977), Tapocalips (1978), or Talaska (1979).
Tawagamie was part of a travelling exhibition from 1981 to 1982, entitled Jacques Hurtubise. Recent Works / OEuvres récentes, initiated by the Art Museum and Gallery of California State University in Long Beach (curator: Mary‑Venner Shee). The exhibition circulated through France, England, Belgium, and Canada.
Hurtubise was born in Montreal in 1939. He studied drawing, sculpture, and etching at the École des beaux‑arts de Montréal between 1956 and 1960 under Albert Dumouchel and Alfred Pellan, whose teachings are palpable in his work. After receiving the Max Beckmann Scholarship in 1960, Hurtubise left for New York, where he discovered new sources of inspiration, In 1967, he represented Canada alongside Jack Bush at the 9th São Paulo Biennial in Brazil. In the early 1970s, he had his first touring exhibition with catalogue, shown at the Musée du Québec (1972) and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1973). He was the recipient of the Victor Martyn Lynch‑Staunton Award in 1992, and the prix Paul‑Émile‑Borduas in 2000.