Yves Gaucher

"Music and poetry had more influence on me than painting. Especially the music of Webern.I wanted to do in engraving what he had done in music: elaborate a visual rhythm with counter-rhythms created by the striking effect of colour"

Yves Gaucher

Yves Gaucher's abstract artworks make reference to human experience and feelings through an understanding of the aesthetic qualities of line, colour, texture, light and volume. Through viewer interaction with his art, he intended to communicate a sense of presence and promote self-awareness.

Gaucher attended the école des Beaux-Arts, 1954-56. A year later, he returned to study printmaking under Albert Dumouchel. Breaking with conventions, he created a new controversial technique of heavy embossing. When he came under fire for his work, he claimed to be challenging the traditions he described as 'taboos'.

Despite his unconventional expression, Gaucher enjoyed early success. In 1957, he had his first one-man show at the Galerie l'échange in Montréal, and by 1960 was the founding president of Associations des Peintures-Gravures de Montreal. Two years later, he received a grant from the Canada Council to travel in Europe. In Paris, he discovered the music of Anton Webern, which would radically alter his perception of sound and images in space. It led him to break free of rational geometric relationships by using irregular patterning, and colour contrasts. As he played with positive and negative relief, broken line, and carefully chosen colours on a background of varied papers, Gaucher's visual images echoed the rigorous atonal notes of the musical cosmpositions that stimulated him.

In 1964, he distanced himself from print-making and began to re-examine the art of the New York Modernists including Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. He was drawn to their geometric shapes, flat colour planes and large canvases and began to create works that had structural affinities to the Modernist aesthetic. However, instead of an art of transcendence, Gaucher sought to create an embodied epiphany.

The artist's interest then turned to mathematical relationships. He used elements of symmetry and pattern to explore the surface of the canvas. Later, he explored unusual spatial relationships, which evolved into monochrome works.

In 1970, Gaucher began to paint broad horizontal stripes of clashing colours in a style that would come to be called colour band painting. Several years later, he would explore the diagonal line, arranging flat planes of antagonistic colours to disrupt space, expressing his interest in theories of chaos. His final works emphasized colour contrast and disrupted rhythm.

Gaucher taught at Concordia Univeristy, Montreal, and in 1980 was nominated to the Order of Canada. He is the undisputed leader of Quebec's printmaking renaissance of the 50s and 60s.