Claude Tousignant is a senior Canadian artist, based in Montreal.
While abstract painting has preoccupied Quebec artists since the Automatistes in the 1940s, Tousignant brought the form to a new level with his pioneering efforts in pure colour and bold presentation.
Three years ago, he was the subject of a career-spanning retrospective show at the MusÃ©e d'art contemporain in Montreal, the largest show dedicated to one artist's work in the museum's history.
Reporter Amy Smart talked to the 79-year-old about his work.
Q. To what extent do you see your work as specifically "QuÃ©bec" art? Or do you see the esthetic of your work coming from a more international source?
A. My work is neither QuÃ©bÃ©cois nor Canadian - I see it as part of the evolution of Western painting.
Q. You were one of Canada's early successes in bringing abstraction into the mainstream. Was that a goal of yours? Why or why not?
A. My goal has always been - since art school - to take painting away from representation, which I see as detrimental to the purity of art.
Q. If paintings are 'beings' that 'happen' in space, as you've said, what's the role of the artist?
A. The artist is the creator: the "beingness" is mostly significant in relation to the spectator - my aim is for people to interact with my paintings, in physical space, as other "beings."
Q. In your early work, you painted squares and solid monochromes - something you've returned to in the past 25 years. What perspective did you gain in that time? Does it hold a different meaning or significance to you now than it did then?
A. I often come back to forms already visited earlier, and inevitably my point of view is different. I use these recurring forms and motifs as themes through which I can push my research further.
Q. After you donated a work to articule, an artist-run centre in Montreal, the gallery invited 12 artists to create forgeries and presented them together. Did they share the concept with you before you donated? What did you think of the idea? The result? Can you give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a forgery in the past?
A. No, I wasn't fully aware of the concept ahead of time. I thought the idea was charming, and some of the results were more interesting than others. A couple of times, dealers have asked me to authenticate unsigned works, and in one case the piece was a forgery.
Q. You once told an interviewer that if you had chosen a career beyond art, you'd be a physicist. What attracts you to that?
A. Dealing with abstract concepts.
Q. Where were you when you created the [six] works for this show?
A. In my Montreal studio.
Q. You created the works over a 12-year span - what connection do you see among them?
All my paintings are inter-connected and are the product of my development as an artist.
Q. Do you have a favourite among the works and if so, why?
A. No - all my works are equally great!
Q. How do you spend your days? Is painting still part of your ritual?
I go to my studio every weekday - painting is still a major part of my life.
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