MARCEL BARBEAU, R.C.A.
Kaspar Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Marcel Barbeau (1925-2016) was an early and defining figure of Canadian abstraction, becoming one of its most diverse voices. His practice at times incorporated collage, drawing, sculpture, performance, and music, as well as painting. Early work, defined by gestural marks and dynamic scrapes, gave way to experimentation with OpArt and interdisciplinary performance; throughout, he retained a sense of impulse and lyric energy.
Produced at the end of the 1980s, Lady of the Lake comes at a time where Barbeau returns to highly contrasted colours and sharply defined hard edges. Retaining the expansiveness of allover painting while taking inspiration from his work in sculpture and collage. Large blocks of colour dominate the composition, becoming an injection-moulded plastic field for the solid monochromes interlocking across the foreground. The overall effect is an intense sensory experience that seems to be a collection of fragments from a larger clash expanding out of frame.
Lady seems to invite interpretation even as the work seems to give into itself as pure spontaneous construction: we can think of the glitter on the edges of a wave, perhaps, or the refracted bottom of a pond seen from the surface. More, we can approach it with the same synthesis of form and narrative that Barbeau injects in his practice, producing an associative and elevatory experience - the same fairy-tale mysticism encountered in a childhood rich in exploration, curiosity, and play.