Swiss by birth, Canadian by adoption, painter and master engraver Francine Simonin has enjoyed an international, prolific career for more than fifty years. Working in series, she develops one body of work after another with coherence, freshness, audacity, and a constantly evolving visual language. Écritures métisses, an acrylic-on-canvas work from 2002, marks her powerful return to painting in the early 2000s. During the previous two decades, Simonin painted only sparingly. The motifs that she patiently explored in her works on paper, born from a seemingly continuous motion, re-emerge with similar expressiveness on canvas.
Her Écritures (2000–02) and Écritures métisses (2002), followed closely by Les Jardins (2003) and Les Jardins jaunes (2004), led the way to her ocean and river works. Each series bears the mark of the previous one without ever depleting its foundational gesture. First, the canvas is brushed with a pure and brilliant red wash, laying the ground for the grey and black figures that echo each other. Then, a luminous grey opens into a cross and, with a few deft strokes, the dancing black silhouettes rise to the foreground in an ode to joy. This hypnotizing black stroke becomes a kind of signature at the heart of the painting.
For Simonin, artistic expression unfailingly goes hand-in-hand with how she encounters the world, and her art is thus the product of an entirely physical experience. She lays her canvases flat upon a low table, less than a metre from the floor, so that she may engage with the surface from every angle while maintaining an overall sense of the whole. Unwanted drippings from her broad, self-assured brushstrokes are minimized, save the trails and spurts left in their wake. Her movements leave decisive, unremitting traces. Here, Simonin has produced a powerful work that reintroduces motifs in the mature painter’s gestural vocabulary from her works on paper.