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Born on December 21, 1930, in Amqui, Matapedia Valley, painter and sculptor Aristide Gagnon has been passionate about art ever since he was very young. After moving to Quebec City in 1948, he started to learn about painting. He attended the École des beaux-arts de Québec from 1952 to 1956, deepening his knowledge in painting, stained glass, enamelling and sculpture.
In 1958, Gagnon won the first Prix du Concours artistique de la Province de Québec (painting category), a prize that helped to launch his career. Since 1959, he has participated in a number of group and solo exhibitions across Canada, the United States and France.
Initiated into the art of stained glass by Olivier Ferland, a master glassmaker, the artist, during the 1960s, created several large-scale projects, notably the stained glass windows of the Oratoire Saint-Joseph de Montréal, following the designs of Marius Plamondon.
In 1963, Aristide Gagnon spent time in France. Since 1966, he has worked with encaustics, an ancient technique that incorporates beeswax. This unusual craft spurred him into using new techniques for applying colors onto a white base, lending pure, warm and transparent tones to his striking canvases.
In 1970, his interest in metal casting - especially bronze - intensified. Two years later, Gagnon started to cast bronze at his own foundry where he came up with the mixtures and alloys that turned him into something of a Quebec pioneer in this field. During the past 40 years, he manufactured at his workshop huge sculptures, statuettes, round bases, murals, medals, fountain sculptures and spheres, which make his fame. Aristide Gagnon was also instrumental in creating the very first fonderie d’Art du Québec, which is situated in Inverness.
A member of the Conseil de la sculpture du Québec and master in his field, Gagnon, in 2008, was named artist-in-residence of the Musée du Bronze d’Inverness, a museum dedicated to bronze that he helped develop.
An artist first and foremost and a self-taught sculptor, Aristide Gagnon has dedicated his life to creation, deriving inspiration from the beauty that he sees around him. To the artist, each project represents an internal adventure. What is important to him is “...to become emotionally involved in the work, to make new discoveries and to communicate them to the world …“.
Gagnon paints in a dynamic, spontaneous fashion - an approach that is also evident in his sculptures. His world is one of intriguing shapes and intense colors whose language is one of constant evolution, hovering between the figurative and the abstract. His works are found amongst numerous private and public collections in Canada, the United States and Europe.
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker
National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada
____________Following is text from the entry of Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 9, by Colin S. MacDonald
GAGNON, Aristide (Arist Gagnon)
Born in Amqui, Quebec, he studied by correspondence, courses on the arts and sciences of the world (1949-51) and subsequently attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Quebec (1952-56) where he studied under Clement Pare, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Guy Paradis, Jean Soucy and Benoit East. (1)
He assisted Marius Plamondon in the making of stained glass windows for churches in and around Quebec City. (2) He also did a bit of sculpture and work with baked enamel on copper. He won a number of prizes in Quebec provincial competitions including awards for his enamel on copper work. (3)
In painting his subjects have included landscapes, portraiture, figure-painting, and abstracts. He held his first one man show in 1956 at the Montcalm Palace, Quebec City (4) and in 1959 held a solo show at the Cartier Gallery, Ottawa, when Carl Weiselberger (5) made these comments: ". . . No doubt the more than 40 exhibits of landscapes and figures reveal rather different stages of technique and achievement. But once you realize that the young painter has assembled paintings from different vintage years, the whole show falls into proper focus . . Almost from year to year his brush-stroke has become more sensitive, his composition more deliberate and vigorous. It is even powerful and almost monumental in such paintings as "stained-glass" outlines . . . . Gagnon's strength lies in his portraiture and figure-painting, his variously grouped Quebec school-girls, bathers, young women, fisherman, acrobats, or the romantic image of a gypsy."
Dorothy Pfeiffer (6) made these comments in 1964 when viewing Gagnon's work at l'Art Français in Montreal, "The majority of Gagnon's present paintings are created in mixed media, that of acriliques, pencil and wax. His approach is cool, impersonal and heightened by a medieval richness of satiny, luminous color and smoothly textural. Gagnon's art is profound. His large, frescoe-like paintings of nudes appear tinged with classical antiquity, although their blank faces rather put one off as may the enormous, round, dark eyes - he may have intended them to be described as 'fathomless' - of several of his portraits . . . ."
She went on to describe his abstracts as being luminous, having intense densities of receding space shot through with vivid flashes of turquoise, topaz, jade and lapis lazuli."
Arist Gagnon has also exhibited at the Galerie Zanettin, Quebec, 1961, 1962, and at the Pollock Gallery, Toronto, 1962. He lives in Quebec City.
1 National Gallery of Canada Information Form received Nov. 15, 1966
2 Ottawa Journal Thursday, Nov. 26, 1959 "Paintings Stand Out in Sea of Abstracts" by Richard Jackson of the Canadian Press
3 see 1
4 see 1
5 Ottawa Citizen Nov. 4, 1959 "Highly Talented Artist Traces His Development" by Carl Weiselberger
6 Montreal Gazette May 16, 1964 by Dorothy Pfeiffer
Submitted by Michel Parent
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