McBride Contemporain is delighted to present Chutes chromatiques, a duo exhibition featuring new paintings by David Blatherwick and Frédérique Ulman-Gagné. Blatherwick and Ulman-Gagné are both artists who come out of the deep tradition of lyrical abstraction, although each has compounded and rethought the basic structure of their influences and approaches by long-standing studio and exhibition experimentation. Installation approaches have often been an important part of how both of these artists have enriched their practice of abstract painting, and each has produced multiple bodies of work with different aesthetics and expressive modes. They also share another primary element of painting in common as a driving artistic force: colour. They are both powerful, exploratory colourists committed to the deployment of rich and resonant chroma in their work. Each has used colour through different pictorial strategies over the course of their careers, and the paintings chosen for this exhibition display the range and impact of their substantial abilities, clearly and boldly. Often using more intense colours in a subtle manner, and quieter hues at times as the main chromatic vehicles of a painting, these works, by both Blatherwick and Ulman-Gagné, offer something different, beautifully odd, and uniquely manifested to the viewer.
David Blatherwick’s recent paintings are developed from a source that is highly unusual, and reflects his inventive approach to finding new compositions and images for his work—figure drawing. Blatherwick draws the model from life, and when he finds a passage in a drawing that is especially formally exciting, he uses it as the basis for starting an abstract painting. From there he works in a continually open manner, layering one passage over another, and searching for the most expressive and surprising combinations of form, texture and colour. He arrives at a conclusive point via a sensitivity born of long experience. His palette too is open and improvisational in nature, always coming to grips with the individuality of each painting through and because of a unique colour identity. These new paintings are simultaneously fresh and strange, beautiful in a slightly unnerving manner, and more and more elegant the longer we look.
Frédérique Ulman-Gagné’s paintings combine a direct and visually striking vocabulary of forms and rich colours with an off-kilter sense that we may be looking at a landscape, a scene, objects and possibly figures brought into existence; partially erased or concealed, and then reformed, without being able to discern any definite information or identify a subject beyond the formal properties we perceive there. She employs patterns and their disruption in equal measure, drawing us into the intrigue of looking. She allows form, space, figure, ground, foreground and background, push and pull to flow and interchange around a canvas until she arrives at a balancing point—while always including a distortion of that balance. She employs unabashedly decorative motifs, not as an ideological or stylistic overdetermination, but simply because she is able to paint them into forceful imagistic lives of their own. Her use of colour tends towards ebullience and boldness, reinforcing the luminosity of these lively canvases.