Serge Lemoyne, a multidisciplinary artist and enfant terrible of Quebec’s contemporary art scene, was deeply invested in art throughout his dazzling career, and he constantly experimented and reinvented himself through the many art events, happenings, and pictorial improvisations that he initiated or participated in. Lemoyne considered himself primarily a seeker of new forms of visual expression, inspired by playfulness and the desire to integrate art into popular culture, as embodied in the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge series that spanned an entire decade, from 1969 to 1979. The desire to erase the boundaries between life and art materialized during a pictorial performance organized by visual artist Greg Curnoe at 20/20 Gallery in London, Ontario, in 1969. Lemoyne had the idea of transforming the gallery into a hockey rink, employing the glass partitions as support for his painting, performed to the rhythm of René Lecavalier’s play-by-play commentary during a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A direct reference to the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge series is characterized by a strict use of colours, forms, and compositions (both figurative and abstract) inspired by sports imagery, representing the players, rink, and equipment through the isolation of details, gestures, and fragments. Lemoyne chose a popular reference to convey his pictorial concerns, drawing freely from the aesthetic affinities of American abstract expressionism, Les Automatistes, and the Quebec Plasticiens. He composed a series of original works “without falling into folklorism or abandoning the formal tenets of modernism” (Marcel Saint-Pierre). His fresh take on solid colours, dripping, and distinctive geometry offered a happy marriage between form and content, and his paintings tell a story in three colours: a manifesto in itself.
Drawing on reportage photography, the more figurative works of 1975 helped to break down the barriers around art. They also played a role in cultivating the already established myth of the Canadiens’ star players, focusing particularly on goalie Ken Dryden. Lemoyne made a series of masks, establishing a relationship “with the make-up practices that [he] adopted in 1973 and 1974” (Marcel Saint-Pierre). Dryden (1975) is unquestionably the most emblematic painting of this period: this large-format (224 cm × 346 cm) work on two panels was proudly incorporated into the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the early 2000s. Painted at the same time, Le masque (1975) replicates the forms and motifs used in Dryden, but the artist has framed the player’s mask more tightly. The angle is slightly more frontal and the amount of dripping has been halved, as have its dimensions (101 cm × 173 cm), creating a more intimate work that will be prized by any collector wishing to acquire an example of the artist’s emblematic iconography. Le masque and the large-format Dryden form an unparalleled and unquestionably classic pair.