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image
© Richard Deschênes, Les bêtes et le sexe, 2011. Collage sur papier journal | Collage on newsprint. 19 x 25 cm. Avec l'aimable permission de l’artiste | Courtesy of the artist. Photo : Guy L’heureux.

Richard Deschênes
From May 11th 2013 to June 15th 2013
De la piscine aux verts

Richard Deschênes’s work essentially examines the process of (de)forming, reproducing, and perceiving the image. He proposes what he loosely calls “imaginary models”: often using existing material such as reference documents and news clippings that he appropriates and recontextualizes, the artist systematically blurs the spectator’s visual and cognitive points of reference. His practice eschews foregone conclusions, whether they be formal—he employs painting, drawing, collage—or thematic—his work shifts between genre art and landscape, figuration and abstraction.

“De la piscine aux verts” comprises around fifteen works drawn from a series begun in 2009 and to which he devoted a residency at the Cité Internationale des arts in Paris in 2011. Constructed from images found in various newspapers, they question the very nature of journalistic photography, of which Deschênes subverts the documentary function, “freeing it of its referential chains”(1) by erasing any trace of the originally captured action, a process of substracting the information through the addition of thin layers of newsprint meticulously chosen, cut, arranged, and pasted. This simultaneous process of camouflaging the central subject and of revealing/creating the background that takes over the whole picture comes to an end with the exhaustion of the available raw material, drawn from various copies of the same photograph. Yet, as opposed to conventional collage, the procedure isn’t obvious at first: only the faintly visible scars of these subtle gestures tell of the materiality of the artist’s surgical interventions upon the real (instead of the virtual, a territory favoured by so many of his contemporaries).

The resulting images are seductive and disturbing: fragility, absence, contemplation, silence... They sometimes seem strangely familiar, marked by the uncanny (the Unheimlich). Instinctively, the eye searches these monochromes, landscapes, “psychological loci” (« lieux psychologiques », as the artist deftly calls them), looking in vain for what the lens had focused on. Some hints of the original pattern persist, however, in terms both of display and of narration: the occluded figures are recalled in the titles of the works, which echo the captions of the initial snapshots, breathing new poetic life into now visually unmoored descriptions.

(1) Bernard Schütze, « Images en transit », Richard Deschênes – Transfert, EXPRESSION, Centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinthe, 2012.

The artist thanks the Canada Council for the Arts.

After a bachelor’s in visual arts from Concordia University (1985), Richard Deschênes studied at the Pratt Graphics Center in New York (1985-86). The recipient of several grants and residencies, he has presented his work in a number of solo and group shows in Canada, Mexico, China, Spain, Austria, the United States, France, and Japan. He lives and works in Montreal.