Entering the studio of artist Louis Boudreault, one is struck by the luminous space, with portraits leaning against every wall, expressive eyes everywhere. They are the eyes of a child: literally. Each one of the artist’s portraits has as its source an image of the subject as a young person. ‘‘I go to libraries and I search the Internet,’’ Boudreault explains as, child-like, he shows his work with pure delight. From Winston Churchill to Charlie Chaplin, from Alexander Calder to Jackson Pollock, and from Pavarotti to Glenn Gould, the faces are those of wide-eyed children. ‘‘Eyes never grow,’’ he continues. ‘‘So the eyes of a child are the same size when they are grown-up.’’ With a sense of complicité, the artist re-interprets these early images, bringing them back to the present.
In this sense of a referenced past lies a Proustian refrain. As that author built a monumental monograph from a memory, so the artist builds a presence from a preceding moment. Like Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, Boudreault’s present is a bygone time: he paints each celebrity as they might have been when younger. But his images are a far cry from documentation, the classical purpose of a portrait. That we know how the personages lived – and died – adds to the power that Boudreault encapsulates in his work. His deft hand captures an essence. Trained at the École de Louvre, his academic talent is obvious. The magic is in his signature suggestion of lives lived, not through the clothing, which is ‘‘relevant to their eras’’, but in their eyes. Andy Warhol’s prescience is sensed, as is John Kennedy’s poignant power, Maria Callas’ tragic gaze, and Marlene Deitrich’s alluring beauty. The artist avoids being formulaic by using anecdotal accessories: Maurice Richard wears his iconic hockey sweater; Al Capone smokes a cigar.
Boudreault’s artistic path was distilled on a memorable day: a moment the world will never forget. ‘‘I starting painting portraits years ago, before we were swamped by Facebook and selfies. I was in London. There, all tied together and waiting to be distributed, were messy stacks of newspapers with articles about Lady Diana’s death. The pages showed her at all ages, and the idea just struck me.’’ Thus inspired, for the next ten years, using a visual language all his own, Louis painted his palimpsests. Boards covered with multiple bits of paper scraped and sanded, cut and collaged, are the background for his faces shaped with graphite, charcoal, pastel and gouache. On the side panels of the wooden frames he affixes layers of crinkly, crinoline-like paper, ‘‘most hand-made and made-to-order by Montreal-based Saint-Armand Papers.’’
His portraits hint at nostalgia. The colours are muted, as if worn by time. With a subtle balance of naturalism and idealism, quiet shades portray the sitters. There are no bright lights shining on these stars. But that is about to change.
‘‘My new work, Les Envois, is about colour, and has no human presence at all. The series symbolizes the story of pigments ordered by artists centuries ago.’’ Once again, Boudreault plays with the aesthetics of memory. Using striking hues such as fuchsia and cobalt blue, he has drawn rows of boxes divided into squares containing powdered paints. Each one is named according to the origin of the colour. Italie, Egypte, Florence speak to our imagination as this original artist takes us on yet another voyage of discovery through his nuanced depiction of the past.
February 2 – April 3, 2015
ÉCRIVAINS ET PENSÉES
April 22 – July 31, 2015