The Idea of Painting

Sylvette Babin

The Idea of Painting

The assertion that painting is dead, expressed periodically over the past few decades, makes one smile all the more considering the omnipresence of paintings in galleries and museums and at art fairs and other market-related events. Indisputably, our interest in painting has not faltered despite the advent and continual advancement of cutting-edge visual technology. It is therefore not the decline of painting that will be addressed in this issue, but rather that which bears witness to its vitality and renewal. Of course, such a theme raises questions about which direction to favour, given the multitude of conceptual tendencies and myriad formal and aesthetic approaches adopted by painting today. Faced with this multiplicity, it no longer seems pertinent to simply assess artistic trends in painting, nor to revive the moribund debates around abstraction and representation.

Our selected theme, The Idea of Painting, might give one to believe that we have chosen to take a stand on painting as a medium (painting-painting) and favour research focusing on painting as subject. Yet this window on artistic practices calling upon various codes of painting, its aesthetic conventions, and historical references (photography, sculpture, performance, tableaux vivants) has clearly underlined the vivid influence of painting in every area of the arts, which by no means implies that the pictorial or the gesture of painting have been excluded from this dossier. On the contrary, it is a definitively assertive painting that comes to light here. It is evident that in many respects modernist painting — like the monochrome — still informs numerous artistic lines of thought and that many authors reference this period in art history to bring perspective to contemporary works. This leaning should not, however, be seen as an overriding aspect of present-day painting; works composed of figurative elements — and which tend to draw on various movements from the 1980s wishing to break with the dictates of modernism (for example, the international trans-avant-garde) — are also awarded significant space in this edition.

In view of the vitality of painting and the multiplication of genres, we have to admit that it is impossible to give an account of every artist’s concerns at the beginning of the twenty-first century, nor to paint a comprehensive portrait. With a few exceptions, we have therefore opted to confine our panorama to the Quebec and Canadian context, particularly in the portfolio, which provides significant insight into the variety of approaches within this geographical framework. Given the breadth of this topic, we have also chosen to set aside the articles section and dedicate the majority of this issue to the thematic dossier.

[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

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