Art as Archeology of the Future
Our innate need to name and to compartmentalize is being challenged by contemporary, rapidly transforming reality. It is especially true of the world of art, where old labels no longer stick, and where the pursuit of a purely individual creative expression did away with schools of artists of like mind and style.
This makes spotting genuine talent all the more difficult, both for the critics and the public.
But talent has the mark of standing out, of suddenly jamming the kaleidoscopic wheel of myriad images. It makes us stop and look as if for the first time.
The art of Dominic Couturier had just such an effect on Andrew Lui, owner of Montreal’s Han Art gallery and an astute art connoisseur.
As for Dominic, the self-taught artist was creatively binding his time, unwilling to expose his works to the public. Unseen, unchallenged – except by their creator – they continued to fill his studio. And all were to end up in Lui’s gallery.
To say that Dominic’s career was launched at that moment may be somewhat of a facile assessment. It began a long time ago in fact, with a young man enamoured of art and literature, a lonely explorer on a personal creative quest.
The great Picasso once remarked: “There are no child prodigies in painting. What people regard as premature genius is the genius of childhood. (…) It is possible for such a child to become a real painter one day, perhaps even a great painter. But he would have to start right from the beginning.”
Inspired, accompanied as it were, by the genius of such diverse artists as Julian Schnabel, Anselm Kiefer, Mimmo Paladino, Antoni Tapies and Eduardo Chillida, Dominic embodies that sentiment, forging his vision with impressive stamina, solidly on his way to becoming a great painter in his own right.
His mixed media works are at once ancient and entirely contemporary. Images reminiscent of peeling frescoes, fragments of antique murals, are born of an unfettered imagination, and irreverent choice of materials.
From the dismantled frame of a sofa, to the lugubrious blackness of tar, all is fodder for Dominic’s restless hands.
Applying layer upon layer of texture, only to scratch them off, exposing strangely beguiling shapes that resonate with an alien energy, he has been producing series after series of bold, powerful images.
With enigmatic messages encoded in their mysterious titles: Monoecia (2004), Being Timelessness as it is to Time (2005), Lacrima (2006), they form a unique quasi-archeological body, existing as much in the past as in the present.
With echoes of ancient lore and religion, Dominic’s large format works seem to be suspended in a moment between creation and erosion, half hidden, half unearthed.
They resemble mystic symbols exposed to light, undeciphered as yet, messengers from another realm, emitting a quiet yet clearly felt presence, and aided by Dominic’s palette of muted, almost monochromatic mix of sepia and gray, with ebony black staking the space.
Teardrop shapes dominate in the Lacrima series, varying in intensity and expression from the dark, bold outline of Lacrima Negra I, to the ethereal, ghostly presence of Lacrima III.
Some are just a shadow of an object imprinted on gesso, others lure the eye with a dark core like a bottomless pool.
Fragments are scorched, branded into the canvas, the texture verging on three-dimensional, and there is no telling where the painting began, which layer was peeled first, which image exposed slowly, deliberately…
An entirely different universe beckons in a giant, 60” x 90”, canvas titled Cosa Mental II, part of Dominic’s latest series of works. Geometric shapes recede into the background, textured panels create mysterious niches, illusory chambers that unfold like a Japanese origami.
It echoes Dominic’s earlier works with technical titles like Binary Station, and Cruz Cerrado, where geometric shapes conversed, converging into a symmetrical, multi-dimensional universe.
Gone are any references to ancient imagery; this is a purely contemporary composition, but still characterized by the artist’s signature texture and colour scheme.
This is a powerful work, with its own rhythm and voice. A vast, enigmatic space of unique proportions and plasticity, it speaks of modernity and youth, and could well be the harbinger of what’s yet to come in the career of this exceptional artist.