In Anteros, dated 1966, an orangey and turquoise binary composition is foregrounded, accentuating the optical power of the patterns and creating delicate, bitter-sweet dynamics. Jacques Hurtubise reinterprets Abstract Expressionist gesture and Tachism practice in a hard-edge style that conditions and breaks down the line and the plane, like a series of stills. Here, “repeated and reversed in mirror images on a system of axes, [the splash] became a formal element that diminished the distinction between field and ground,” comments Mary- Venner Shee. In Anteros, the motifs are repeated in a pattern that is at once regular and asymmetrical, forming a dynamic, illusionistic space, a complete presence. “Each of the cells’ ridges—the sides and the diagonal— is the axis of symmetry of a vibratory form,” writes François-Marc Gagnon.
After 1965, many of Hurtubise’s paintings were titled with feminine names, adding a sibylline touch to his personal mythology. Here, however, Hurtubise opts for a masculine name, again from Greek mythology: Anteros, the god of requited love, son of Ares and Aphrodite and brother of Eros. The common noun “anteros” refers to a gemstone similar to jasper. Hurtubise’s painting is an exercise in mirroring, echoing, and symmetry, like the chiselling of stone, but also in the spirit of mythological symbols. Writing on Hurtubise’s works from this period, art critic Nicolas Mavrikakis referred to them as “psychological portraits” or the “representation of energy emanating from a person”—in this case, Anteros. Mavrikakis concludes, “These works also generate additional tension, this time between purely pictorial abstract art and narrative art.”
Hurtubise was born in Montreal in 1939. Between 1956 and 1960, he studied drawing, sculpture, and etching at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal; there, he met artists 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, notably in the works of Malevich, Pollock, and de Kooning, whose mix of formalism and gesture would become ubiquitous in his paintings and engravings. In addition to American Abstract Expressionism, Hurtubise was interested in the aesthetics of Montreal’s Plasticiens in the mid-1960s. He had his first solo exhibition in New York in 1966, and in 1967, he represented Canada alongside Jack Bush at the 9th São Paulo Biennale 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.