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Currently shown
Barbara Steinman

J'ai vu, une fois [Once, I saw ]

Artist

Barbara Steinman
Born in Montreal in 1950

Title

J'ai vu, une fois [Once, I saw ]

Date

2013

Materials

Neon, brushed acrylic box, dimmer switch, 3/3

Dimensions

45.7 x 132.1 x 8.9 cm

Credits

Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 2017.1

Collection

Quebec and Canadian Art

Steinman is a leading Montreal artist who draws on art history, literature and her childhood memories for her work, all of which she uses to reveal emotions and to restore a sense of poetry to the world in which we live. Her works appeal repeatedly to the many existing symbols of light, vision, proportion and consciousness.


This work borrows, for its title, a fragment of the first sentence in Le Petit Prince (1943) by Saint-Exupéry—it translates as “Once, I saw.” The neon writing is not a message; it is, rather, an affirmation that can be perceived as both universal and personal. The calligraphy confers a sort of private quality on the whole. Initially difficult to read, the work appears to be simply an image made of light. Steinman hoped that the formal appeal of the work would encourage people to take the time to read it and then to imagine and reflect on the possibilities of the image.

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