I do a painting because I need to see it.
– Yves Gaucher, 1988
During the summer of 1988, post-Plasticien Yves Gaucher began the Pale Paintings series, “in which he explores ‘a range of colours that generate pure light’” (Perreault, “Chronology,” in Grant Marchand [ed.], Yves Gaucher, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2003), an element that was the subject of constant study in his work. J.G./Ps (1989), emerging from this series, unfolds spans of colour in fine, precise nuances going from light grey to dark grey, which are then echoed, in the same tones, by expanses of straw yellow and saffron yellow, slipping between positive and negative spaces. Discussing the structural and formal dynamics of this series, curator Sandra Grant Marchand highlights the rhythmic qualities of the diagonal that is perpetuated in linear space and yet “punctuates the surfaces of its subtly varied slants, creating the slight discords that hold our attention. The dark or light colours are worked in the full scope of their increasingly lateral deployment, and the hinted-at sites of transition from one tone to the next captivate us because they are so elusive” (“Yves Gaucher: spaces of silence,” op. cit.).
This fertile cycle came to an end in 1992 with, among other pieces, Reds & Ps (1992, Musée national des beauxarts du Québec), an immense work whose composition is similar to that of J.G./Ps, a brilliant and graduated wave that interprets and measures the passage of time. “The space of the Pale Paintings seems to emanate towards us,” says Roald Nasgaard of this series, “in what we can perhaps call an aura of light, to achieve an uninterrupted flow across precipitous edges and through discordant chromas and values, finally to attain gracefully, if paradoxically, an impossible reconciliation and repose” (Abstract Painting in Canada, Douglas & McIntyre and Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2007).
J.G./Ps has the peculiarity that it echoes the luminous majesty of the colour fields that prevailed when Gaucher turned to painting in 1964, as well as the power of the Grey on Grey Paintings, which he produced from 1967 to 1969.
Born in Montreal in 1934, Yves Gaucher studied at the Montreal School of Fine Arts from 1954 to 1956. Expelled from the school, he continued his training with printmaker Albert Dumouchel until 1960. He won a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in 1962, which enabled him to travel to Europe. Starting 1963, he was represented by galleries in Montreal, Toronto, and New York, where he obtained his first solo exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery. The same year, still in New York, the Museum of Modern Art acquired In Homage to Webern No. 2, thereby launching his international career. In 1964, returning to painting, as well as to colour, Gaucher temporarily abandoned printmaking. In 1966, he participated in the 33rd Venice Biennale and became an assistant professor at the school of fine arts at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) in Montreal. Gaucher was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1973. In the early 1990s, he returned to printmaking, relief, and materiality. He died in Montreal in 2000.