Untitled (1961), with its central figure that seems shaken by high winds and flames rising under shards of bark, its falls and its thrusts, its spans of colour pierced by light, and its shimmering royal blue, ruby, and orange yellow, is among Marcelle Ferron’s more powerful works. Ferron’s paintings are polysemic, ruled by a hand that controls the material, creating plays of transparency, texture, and explosions of pigment; a single stroke of the palette knife can split the pictorial area without shaking its foundations. Untitled was created during a period when Ferron was demonstrating great assurance in her use of space and uncompromising approach to gesture, which continued to evolve and grow in character, mastery, and sensitivity.
In the early 1960s, the bold sweeps of her spatula took on fresh energy and unprecedented strength, juxtaposing masses of textured pigments, counterpoint effects both dark and luminous, as well as thicker impasto, all of which collide, interact, and separate almost organically. White patches glide skilfully into “dense structures that, at first, had essentially hidden the background, but now make way for a complex interplay of planes that fill the space,” as Réal Lussier, curator of the retrospective devoted to Ferron at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2000, observed (Marcelle Ferron, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and Les 400 coups, 2000).
In 1961, Ferron was a member of the Canadian delegation to the 6th São Paulo Biennial in Brazil, alongside Harold Town, Ronald Bloore, Alex Colville, and Gordon Smith, under the auspices of curator Charles Comfort, then director of the National Gallery of Canada. Ferron exhibited six works, including Ronqueralles (1960, the showpiece of BYDealers fall 2017 auction), which, due to its size and indisputable pictorial qualities, embodied the very essence of the body of work presented. In addition, the artist distinguished herself— not only from her colleagues but also from the hundreds of visual artists representing more than fifty countries—by being awarded the Biennial’s silver medal. Untitled is unquestionably a part of the extraordinary constellation of work that propelled Ferron to the forefront of abstract painting on the international scene.