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Marie-Claude Bouthillier
From November 6th 2010 to December 11th 2010
Dans le ventre de la baleine

In the history of painting, the studio is a motif closely tied to the artist’s biography. Marie-Claude Bouthillier’s new work, Dans le ventre de la baleine (2010), confirms the attraction this space exercises on our imagination. Here she takes up the challenge of exhibiting a process and designing a custom-made pictorial environment which enables her to explore the perceptual properties of painting; the grid motif and its referent, the canvas. Some of her concerns derive from the structure of Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau and from the piece L’Atelier Brancusi, two references brought up to date in this "all-over" installation which incorporates surrounding space and transforms our focal point.

In the small gallery, pieces of painted canvas, past paintings and objects are thus piled up in a way suggestive of an artist’s studio without however being a faithful recreation of one. Even though Bouthillier has replicated its dimensions, there is no direct reference to her studio, but the abundance of motifs, screens, grids and veils—reminiscent of her Psychés-écrans and Apparitions series—reinforces the impression of being inside the materiality of the painting (or paintings), a feeling further suggested by the visual and tactile quality of the various surfaces we are exposed to. In his essay "After Abstract Expressionism" (Art International, October 1962), Clement Greenberg recognised that “the observance of merely these two norms [flatness and the delimitation of flatness] is enough to create an object which can be experienced as a picture: thus a stretched or tacked-up canvas already exists as a picture—though not necessarily as a successful one”. As Greenberg emphasized, the "outcome of this reduction has been not to contract, but actually to expand the possibilities of the pictorial". To this end, Bouthillier tends towards a greater materiality of painting by making representation, the tactility of the medium (direct reference to textiles), the motif and the print co-exist, and thereby exacerbating these conventions.

In this installation, Bouthillier insists on the concepts of transformation and process in order to describe the properties of a new space whose configuration evokes a sanctuary, a lair, a place in gestation—as its title Dans le ventre de la baleine ("In the Belly of the Whale") describes perfectly. The work refers more to Schwitters’ utopian constructions than to Brancusi’s studio; we must therefore not confuse this environment with a mise en scène of a studio, but rather understand and perceive it as an envelope that is a work in its own right.
- Marie-Josée Lafortune

"Dans le ventre de la baleine" is the subject of an article by Nicolas Mavrikakis, Marie-Claude Bouthillier - Naviguer sur la toile (Voir, November 18th 2010), a radio interview on The Désautels Show Marie-Claude Bouthillier's interview ( Désautels, November 29th 2010) and a review by Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, Marie-Claude Bouthillier - Dans le ventre de la baleine( Esse arts + opinions, no.71, Winter 2011.)

"Dans le ventre de la baleine" ranks at the head of the top 5 best shows of 2010 by Nicolas Mavrikakis Revue 2010 / Arts visuels - Une année radicale? (Voir, December 23rd 2010), as well as in Marie-Eve Beaupré’s Top 3: Quebec Quality / various locations jan to dec 2010 (Canadian Art, 23 décembre 2010).

Marie-Claude Bouthillier is a well-known figure in Quebec’s artistic scene. Her work has been exhibited at venues such as the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. She is also a curator, whose exhibitions include Réponse à Zola (2006), presented at the Clark gallery. Her work can be found in public collections.