Opening Reception – Friday November 17 from 6-9 pm.

Michele Drouin’s career as an abstract artist spans four decades. She has had a very successful international career and is recognized for her contribution to art in Canada. She stopped painting in 2011, but the works from the last decade of her production show striking power of execution and knowledge of colour. This retrospective exhibition covers the most important periods of her career, from 1977 to 2007.

Click here to see the work.

MICHÈLE DROUIN – Career Overview

Michele began her career in the 1950s. Her paintings and drawings were then figurative, but one can sense in them her early attraction to the more lyrical forms being explored by the Surrealists, and the Automatist artists in Quebec at the time.

She started experimenting with abstraction in the 1960s, then found in the early 1970s a new hard-edge style that would permit her to explore colours and develop her basis as a colourist. Moving her focus away from objects, she created discernable dimensions by playing with contrasting forms, as well as with primary and complementary colours.

In 1983, she participated in the Triangle Workshop in Pine Plain, NY. Under the guidance of sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, she started to work on canvas stretched on platforms on the ground, and it transformed her artistic style: a more liquid application of colour, an interplay of transparencies, wider, bolder brush-strokes. Following in the steps of the Post-Painterly Abstractionist, she laid the foundations of a new artistic language in which colour is the only feature of the painting. This style was further developed at the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshop in 1985 under the leadership of Maryann Harmon and Karen Wilkin.

In 1993, she started exploring with more constructed brushstrokes, which permitted her to superimpose pigments and areas of colours, thus creating singular emotions. Her mastery of acrylic and canvas deepened: the acrylic pigments, usually pasty or bold, could become watery, evanescent, on a canvas that she saturated with diaphanous or vibrant colours.

Her works of art—audacious, remarkable, demanding, sometimes even severe—are illuminated by poetic titles which invite the viewer to untangle the mysterious connections between the structure of the painting and the reality evoked by the words.

Constance Naubert-Riser, Professeur honoraire, Universite de Montreal, Michele Drouin, In Parcour May 30 – September 6, 2009,  Musee /des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke.
Karen Wilken, Michele Drouin, Recent Paintings July 9 – September 6, 1991, Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London

MICHÈLE DROUIN – Connection to Edmonton and the West

Until the 1980s Michèle Drouin was an abstract painter after the fashion of Guido Molinari, Yves Gaucher, and Claude Tousignant her “hard edge” Montreal compatriots who sought clarity and structure in strict geometry and uninflected flat colour. They painted what Clement Greenberg called “post-painterly abstraction”—albeit with a French twist. Michèle’s painting of the mid-eighties departed from that manner.

I suspect that her departure was prompted by her contact with Karen Wilkin (a friend of Michele’s husband, Sam Abramovitch) who encouraged her in 1983 to attend Triangle Workshop near Mashomak, New York. Wilkin was visiting critic at Triangle that year. (She went on to become overall director of its program.) At the time Triangle was something of a New York/London/Edmonton affair, created in 1982 by the British sculptor Anthony Caro following his own experience at Saskatchewan’s Emma Lake Artists Workshop in 1977. In its early years significant visitors to Triangle included several of Caro’s artist friends, among them Kenneth Noland, Larry Poons and Helen Frankenthaler. Caro’s great friend, the American critic Clement Greenberg, visited annually.

I met Michèle in the mid-1980s some time after her Montreal geometry had been shaken out. I suspect that the basic layout of her new paintings was carried forward from her earlier work, but the resulting paintings seemed relaxed and expanded. They were made up of squarish, boxed-in layouts: rectangles within rectangles. Bold overlapping bars along the canvas sides framed and flanked smaller ones in the centre: dark bars at the perimeter tended to surrounding light at the centre. The paintings were dramatic but never severe: colour expression engaged with a paint surface in a relaxed and expressive way. The paint surfaces seemed to breathe.

Curiously, her mature paintings were comparable in feeling to those of several Saskatoon and Edmonton painters. It might even be said that her manner of painting inclined to the West, if only a little, a very rare thing for a Montrealer. But in her particular case, it proved to be the proper thing.

Terry Fenton
Victoria, BC, 2017