Nearly one hundred years after the existence of the Beaver Hall Group (1920–1923), a seminal moment in the assertion of women as professional painters in Montreal, where do woman artists working with the paint medium stand today? This year’s Beaver Hall Group exhibition at the Museum offered the pretext for a reflection on the place assumed by women artists in Quebec and Canada’s art milieus.
This exhibition brings together and celebrates the work of six artists who have dedicated their careers to painting and the medium’s current stage of evolution.
SHE invites us to think about the medium beyond the strict opposition of abstraction/figuration on which a large part of twentieth-century art history has been built, in particular the history of painting. Her works, sometimes of a hybrid nature, suggest new ways of inscribing the real in painting, question and confront stereotypes, disclose the culmination of an observational and analytical endeavour exploring surrounding space, all the while being imbued with an emotive, affective or melancholic charge.
SHE teaches at school and contributes to the renewal of pedagogical approaches as well as creating parallel establishments, such as self-administered and community-based artist centres that form part of our cultural ecosystem.
SHE shares some recently completed works, superb pieces of painting that for the most part come from the studio.
SHE is a painter and ranks among those who have brought new life to pictorial matters with finesse and intelligence. This exhibition offers an overview of current explorations by contemporary women artists.
SHE took an interest in the representation of artists in literature and made it the subject of many of her works. Her exploration of the relationships between painting and textile has been woven into the very fabric of her pictorial experimentation since the late 1990s. Here, In the Belly of the Whale, she presents an enveloping refuge, a lair, a gestational place. Created around the artist’s room-studio, this pictorial environment gives off a lined, all-encompassing setting. Its tactile, optic and hypnotic qualities give the impression of inhabiting one of the artist’s paintings.
SHE uses colour brilliantly. Situated where abstraction and figuration meet, Wanda Koop’s painting translates her lived experiences into a visual language, into metaphors, arising from a reflection on the image and on the immediate competition between painting and contemporary information technologies. Since the early 2000s, the artist has been interested in the spectacle of televised news coverage, its relationship to reality, its effects on our perception of the world around us.
SHE endeavours to flush out all the gestures of liberation to subvert or to deflect the meaning of images produced by our consumer society, thus causing a type of interpretative detour. Christine Major’s pictorial world is built on dialogue between reality and fiction, with the constant insertions of artistic and political issues raised by modes of representation in popular culture and advertising.
SHE is interested in photography, in the way it breaks up reality, fragmenting it, reducing it to a blur, to pure movement, to its light effects, to its relationship with time and memory. A kind of abstract trompe-l’oeil, Angèle Verret’s painting is nothing but an illusion. She creates work that makes the most of the littlest irregularity presented by the canvas, the vagaries of the process of completing the painting to create images that destabilize the objectivity of the gaze. Her compositions flow from the blurring of the paint: in their essence, they are interrogative, enigmatic and introspective.
SHE uses the slow, complicated and historically loaded medium of painting to create both visceral and visually discursive spaces, places where representations of past and present may meet “along the road.” Her work reflects a process of drawing together diverse references: Western history and emerging economies, scarcity and excess, long ago and far away—all expressed through various forms of visual representation, encompassing everything from “high art” to the vernacular—are explored and reimagined in painting.
SHE has been interested for several years in the fictional painted portraits of psychologically complex characters in troubling poses that challenge conventional representations of the figure. These figures, which are mostly female, are part of an exploration of the perpetual quest for the ideal. Janet Werner gives us her reflections on the consumption of images and our deeply rooted ideals of beauty. The portrayal of ideal beauty is reduced to the level of skin, without failing to suggest the related disorders and deviances.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Women of Influence Circle
In honour of the women of the Beaver Hall Group, we are pleased to present this exhibition featuring the work of contemporary women painters from Quebec and Canada. This project was made possible thanks to the generous support of the MMFA’s Women of Influence Circle.
We are grateful to the Circle’s founding members:
Sandra Abitan, Alix d’Anglejan-Chatillon, Christiane Bergevin, Sylvie Boileau, Johanne Champoux, Hélène Couture, Viviane Croux, France Denis Royer, Giovanna Francavilla, Carolina Gallo, Diane Giard, Anne- Marie Hubert, Isabelle Hudon, Suzanne Legge Orr, Constance Lemieux, Johanne Lépine, Mary Leslie, Isabelle Marcoux, Monique Parent, Miriam Pozza, Gurjinder P. Sall, Michelle R. Savoy, Marie Senécal-Tremblay and Martine Turcotte, under the leadership of Françoise E. Lyon.
Marie-Claude Bouthillier (born in 1960),* In the Belly of the Whale*, 2010-2015, hemlock boards, Plexiglas, acrylic on canvas, metal clothes hangers, plywood support, cotton rope, canvas on wood frame, pins, nails, plastic clock. Collection of the artist. Photo Yan Giguère
Wanda Koop (born in 1951), Friendly Fire, From the series “No News”, 2011, Acrylic on canvas. MMFA, promised gift of Pierre and Anne-Marie Trahan, Majudia Collection. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest
Christine Major (born in 1966),Nowhere, 2012, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest
Angèle Verret (born in 1942), Little Fugue, 2012, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist. Photo Angèle Verret
Carol Wainio (born in 1955), The Fall, 2015, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the artist. Photo Richard-Max Tremblay
Janet Werner (born in 1959), Carey, 2014, Oil on canvas, 249.2 x 198.2 x 4.2 cm. MMFA, purchase, F. Cleveland Morgan Fund. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest