(Re)seeing Painting | esse arts + opinions

(Re)seeing Painting

102 - Printemps / été 2021

This features dedicated to painting is part of an attempt to encourage critical analyses of painting practices. While presenting a selection of articles that attest to the diversity of aesthetic and conceptual approaches to this art form, (Re)seeing Painting puts forward some considerations of the different strategies deployed in art practices or dissemination networks. Though pictorial research may remain central to painters, some of them use their works as formidable tools of empowerment or protest, as a means to critically examine society.


Articles à la pièce



Painting Criticism or Criticism as Painting
Sylvette Babin

FEATURE: (Re)seeing Painting

The Reactualization of Painting in Digital Times
By analyzing different digital-based initiatives, such as the adaptation of physical exhibitions into virtual tours, the author reflects on painting’s reactualization as a contemporary form of expression. This reactualization testifies both to the decades-long exclusion of certain image-based practices by museums and to the persistence of public attitudes toward painting that stem from a notion of it that contemporary art has supposedly left behind.
[Translated from the French by Jo-Anne Balcaen]

Daniel Fiset

Too Hard: Gay Figurative Painting’s Gimmicks
Critics of contemporary figurative painting have scrutinized the “zombie” style that is presented in the form of comical, irritating gimmicks. Drawing from Sianne Ngai’s recent theorizing of the gimmick as aesthetic judgment and capitalist form, this essay relates these critiques to a rising cohort of queer male figurative painters. Against a prevailing critical reception that treats their works as subversively queer, Spencer argues that these painters employ queerness as a gimmick insofar as it manifests predominantly in the form of an unimaginative gayness––a re-presentation of sameness that works too hard (or not hard enough) to claim queer rebellion.

Connor Spencer

The Afterlife’s Painting
In Esse #76, Sorenson wrote an article about zombies as a metaphor of the life and death of painting. Since then, critics Walter Robinson and Alex Greenberger have coined the terms Zombie Formalism and Zombie Figuration to speak of the unchallenging works of young New York painters. From a Canadian perspective, Tammi Campbell, Joani Tremblay, and Shary Boyle flirt with the tactics of zombie aesthetics while seeming less superficial, aiming more for a revitalization of sidelined visual tropes, in sync with revitalized gender roles.

Oli Sorenson

Narrative Bodies and Intimacy in Contemporary Figurative Painting
In this essay, Sûrya Buis analyzes the emotional and intimate dimension of contemporary figurative painting. To illustrate, she presents three artists with very different practices: Guillaume Bresson, Colleen Barry, and George Rorris. Buis traces a thread between their work and classic painting styles in art history, which tend to focus on continuity rather than rupture. The description of their practices underscores the viewer’s interest in the public display of the private sphere and the emotions that the encounter between work and viewer may awaken.
[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

Sûrya Buis

Damien Cadio, Des horizons
The paintings of French artist Damien Cadio put pressure on the relationship between figurative painting and the notion of genre. Exploring the long-discredited category of the still life over several years, he represents objects that have lost their former splendour. They appear as signs of a consumed official history, which it has now become necessary to deconstruct, starting from its margins. Museum relics or figural bouquets may not be the most spectacular specimens, yet here, decontextualized, they trigger a critical perspective.
[Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioaei]

Thomas Fort

Painting in a Transitory Realm: Vincent Larouche and the Effects of Digital Culture
Now more than ever, painters and their work are implicated in a non-hierarchical network of the internet. Paintings become an external screen, translating a record of the artist’s search history on the canvas through appropriated images, gestures, and shapes. In Vincent Larouche’s work, painting is understood through translation, making us aware of how our understanding of knowledge has shifted through the consumption of imagery online. Larouche explores the internet’s ability to alter our perception of reality, empathy, and safety by carrying the overwhelming nature of the virtual realm into the material world. Within this space of all-encompassing connectivity, Larouche reminds us that in a network, no one can ever be sure who is in control.

Cindy Hill

Listening to Pictorial Material
A specific resonance engages in dialogue with pictorial material. As the resonance traverses sensory space, we refine our gaze and sharpen our sense of listening. Between wave and embodiment, this communicative sensorial experience enlists the possibility of a pluralistic reality. The decompartmentalization of boundaries helps us to consider the conditions underlying the emergence of a voice-image form. As the image collides with its edge and the eye closes, echoes of the visible settle in fragments deep in the throat.
[Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioaei]

Mimi Haddam


Maude Maris
Maude Maris draws us into troubled and uncertain worlds. The landscapes she creates reveal a repertoire of forms borrowed from a reality impossible to identify with certainty. Some objects seem familiar, though: ruins, glaciers, fossils, entrails, mummified limbs. […]

Nathalie Desmet

Cinga Samson
Cinga Samson’s muted pallet and flattened compositions are central to the African anti-sublime aesthetic that distinguishes his work from that of other contemporary painters. Forget the colonial stereotypes of deep blue skies, dusty deserts, and savannahs — through a subtle intertwining of popular culture and lush vegetation, Samson’s paintings radically defy Western expectations of what African life should be. […]

Giovanni Aloi

Marigold Santos
Marigold Santos is a storyteller. Informed by her own personal narrative of diaspora, Santos explores her hybrid Filipinx-Canadian identity, and the landscapes of her memories through paint and tattoos. A central theme in Santos’s work is the story of the asuang, a mythological creature from Philippine folklore. […]

Amanda Beattie

Alexandre Pépin
Focusing on still lifes, parks, and landscapes, Alexandre Pépin’s painting stands out for its vibrant touch, strikingly embodied in the present and in the senses. The rustling of dried-up flowers and herbs in the wind traverses the canvas with the same intuitive reality as the perfume of shrivelled, squeezed lemons imbues the space.

Dominique Sirois-Rouleau

The interdisciplinary practice of Niap (also known as Nancy Saunders) goes beyond the scope of painting without losing sight of the symbolic force of this mode of expression as an “open window through which history can be observed.” The Montréal-based, Kuujjuaq-born Inuk artist is interested not only in the tensions between history and contemporaneity but also in the “zones of contact” that they engender. […]

Anne-Marie Dubois

Antonietta Grassi
A beige abyss. Hot pink solitude, suspended in time. A geometric poem, woven with threads that connect technology, memory, and abstraction. In Antonietta Grassi’s work, all of these separate entities become neatly tied together in a mathematical, painterly, and thoughtful exploration of colour and light; shape and line. But within this orderly unit, there is an undertone of inner turmoil, like a system that has overheated and is in meltdown mode. […]

Amanda Beattie

Cindy Ji Hye Kim
Cindy Ji Hye Kim approaches her practice as a form of writing. It is a pertinent strategy in that text generates images that remain unseen and the tension between the perceptible and the hidden is precisely what interests her. Her figures are metaphorical verbs that convey movement and action. […]

Anaïs Castro

Cindy Phenix
[…] Using textile, ceramic, gold leaf, paper, wood, and plywood, Phenix creates singular alliances between techniques, giving rise to a playful chaos that renders obsolete the very notion of categorization, instead urging the creation of sensitive and open relationships among materials. […]

Maude Johnson


L’art et la honte : Entretien avec Geoffroy de Lagasnerie
Avec L’art impossible, Geoffroy de Lagasnerie essaie d’interroger les valeurs de l’art face à l’interpellation du monde mauvais. Pour l’auteur, la honte que l’inégalité des vies génère en nous devrait déboucher sur une nouvelle évaluation éthique des œuvres qui rompe avec les idéologies de la dénégation. L’art, en tant que pratique sociale, n’aurait alors pas de valeur intrinsèque et son ambition politique ne serait le plus souvent que l’aveu de son impossibilité. À quoi pourrait alors ressembler un art au-delà de la honte ? Et à quelles conditions pourrait-il quelque chose devant toute la misère du monde ?

Noé Gross


Dans l’atelier de
Anne-Marie Ouellet
Véronique Leblanc


Visual Arts

Sandra Brewster, Works from series: Smith, Blur; Video: Walk on by, Optica centre d’art contemporain, Montréal, by Dominique Sirois-Rouleau

tīná gúyáńí (Deer Road), k’ō-dī īyínáts’īdìsh (new agency), Articule, Montréal, by Didier Morelli

Carl Trahan, La nuit est aussi un soleil, Galerie Nicolas Robert, Montréal, by Itay Sapir

Darby Milbrath, Although the wind…, Projet Pangée, Montréal, by Sarah Amarica

At the centre of my ironic faith, Cassandra Cassandra, Toronto, by Emily Cadotte

Celia Perrin Sidarous & Marie-Michelle Deschamps, Bradley Ertaskiran, Montréal, Anne Roger

Now Bulletin: Artworks, Letters and Printed Matter from the Garry Neill Kennedy Collection 1968 – 2019, Griffin Art Projects, Vancouver, by Stéphane Bernard

Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, New Museum, New York, by Giovanni Aloi

Hélène Bertin, Cahin-caha, Le Creux de l’enfer, Thiers, France, by Nathalie Desmet


Résistances et ravissements 2, Mois Multi, Montréal, by Julie-Michèle Morin


Habiter l’exposition : l’artiste et la scénographie, Manuella éditions, by Nathalie Desmet

Knowledge Beside Itself: Contemporary Art’s Epistemic Politics, Sternberg Press, by Benoit Jodoin


Presentation of the issue (Re)seeing Painting

Esse 102 — (Re)voir la peinture | (Re)seeing Painting
Esse 102 — (Re)voir la peinture | (Re)seeing Painting

Subscribe to the Newsletter

 Retrouvez nous sur Twitter !Retrouvez nous sur Facebook !Retrouvez nous sur Instagram !





Esse arts + opinions

Postal address
C.P. 47549,
Comptoir Plateau Mont-Royal
Montréal (Québec) Canada
H2H 2S8

Office address
2025 rue Parthenais, bureau 321
Montréal (Québec)
Canada H2K 3T2

E. : revue@esse.ca
T. : 1 514-521-8597