More expressive and undisciplined than its sister painting, La Trouée (1962–63), Southern (1963) stylistically borrows the former’s lines and bold forms, anchoring its place within Charles Gagnon’s series of Gap Paintings. Indeed, “the artist revisits his off-centre compositions in 1962,” as his interest turned increasingly toward “notions of spatial passage and obstruction, which would become a constant theme in his work” (R. Nasgaard, MNBAQ, 2013, translation ours) Southern features an oblong central shape—unfinished, unmoored, trailing emerald-green threads that dance against a greyish background. Two white points, distorted reflections of one another, emulate the quadrangle, which disappears under a gray shade, then resurfaces at the painting’s right edge. A streak of pure yellow ochre, truncated by a sketched-in corner that echoes the other forms beneath it, tops the composition with streaks of green, gray, white. A few sprays, spills, and splashes pepper the pictorial space. The entire tableau is painted sensually, with a raw energy.
Charles Gagnon is a multidisciplinary artist born in Montreal in 1934. He completed his studies in the U.S. between 1955 and 1959 at the New York Institute of Photography and the New School of Interior Design. Gagnon became known as much abroad as in Canada through his participation in important exhibitions, such as “USA: 58,” at Madison Square Gardens in New York; in the early 1960s at the Galerie Denyse Delrue, in Montreal; and the Deuxième Biennale de Paris at the Musée d’art modern. Following these successes were photographic exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, in 1971, and at New York’s International Center of Photography, in 1983. Charles Gagnon taught at Concordia University in Montreal (1967–75) and at the University of Ottawa (1975–96). He received the Banff School of Fine Arts Prize (1981), the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas (1995), the Governor General’s Award in Visual Arts (2002), and the Jean Paul Riopelle Career Grant (2003). His work was the subject of a major retrospective at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, in 2001, two years before his death. (A. L.)