I am trying to express life itself. —Rita Letendre
At the turn of the 1970s, Rita Letendre’s cuneiform, or beamed-shaped, hard-edge paintings had already become her hallmark, and she would go on to develop an innovative airbrush painting technique. With Malapèque, from 1973, Letendre aims to re-create the impression of speed and vibration, even vital energy, by multiplying the source of the beams within the pictorial field. Here, one of the vanishing points literally rests on the lower left edge of the frame and radiates across the entire surface. This lateral projection augments the impact and intensity of the beam, itself made more striking by alternating complementary chromatic contrasts in blues and oranges, reds and greens. Their trajectory is like the passage of a celestial body through infinite space. In an interview with Claude-Lyse Gagnon in Vie des arts, Letendre perfectly describes this flaring effect: “I’m trying to fracture a moment in my paintings, to grasp a flash of luminosity but leave it open into infinity, as if nothing of the painting was left in the end … It’s as if I were painting a comet that came down from the cosmos, struck my eyes for a second, like an incandescent flash, a fluorescence, then continued its path across the galaxies.” Malapèque was included in the impressive body of work in her retrospective Rita Letendre: Fire & Light at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2017. The painting’s twin, Malapèque II (1973, acrylic on canvas, 152.5 cm x 203.2 cm), is in the collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and is featured on the cover of the catalogue for the exhibition A Matter of Abstraction, presented there in 2012.
(Annie Lafleur / Trad.: Jo-Anne Balcaen)