Guido Molinari’s Mutation tri-orange has the effect of an apparition in the room. The unpredictable colour alternations engage the spectator’s whole attention, caught here in a vision of a chromatic chorale.
The 1960s culminated in Molinari’s work with the formal resolution of the pictorial space, in which he deployed chromatic modulations generated by a single rhythmical sequence. Mutation tri-orange (1967) fully exemplifies this development; its vertical bands of equal width allow the colours to “expand inwardly to invade the spectator’s space,” according to Roald Nasgaard. Mutation and mobility are the watchwords of the painting of this period, which is both intensely sensory and purely objective. The 16 narrow bands accelerate the painting’s rhythm with particularly captivating chromatic vibrations. The seriality triggers a continuous dynamism between the stripes of pure colour, each repeated three times, with the exception of the red, which goes through four iterations. Yet the red bands establish a discrepancy in the fixed sequence of orange, violet, blue, and green, which creates an optical disturbance, or exception, at the far right of the support. Moreover, this subtle deflection triggers a perceptual reaction of stops and loops, as if the eye were striving to solve a mathematical equation or the mystery behind a magic trick. With this chromatic permutation so elegantly deployed, the eye is guided back over the painting, to the very beginning of the “score.”
In addition to his many shows at the East Hampton Gallery, at which Mutation tri-orange was presented during the 1960s, Molinari took part in the legendary 1965 exhibition The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. Only shortly thereafter, he represented Canada at the thirty-fourth Venice Biennale in 1968, where he won the David E. Bright Foundation Prize. In 1969, he was appointed a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and in 1971, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1973, he received the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award; three years later, the National Gallery of Canada gave him his first retrospective. Molinari was the youngest recipient of the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas, in 1980. The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal honoured him with a final retrospective in 1995. Molinari held two teaching positions during his career: at the School of Art and Design, briefly (1964-65), and at Concordia University (1970-97). Molinari—painter, drawer, printmaker, sculptor, art theorist, and poet—died in 2004, in his hometown.