Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

Exhibition Surveys over 40 Years of Photography by Award-Winning Artist Charles Gagnon

Ottawa, Canada - January 7, 2000


 Une exposition-parcours de plus de 40 ans de photographie de l'artiste lauréat Charles Gagnon 
From January 21 to May 14, 2000, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography will present the first major survey of the photography of Charles Gagnon. This artist's work as a painter, photographer and filmmaker spans over forty years and is among the richest and most representative of his generation.

For the exhibition Charles Gagnon: Observations, the artist himself selected nearly 100 black-and-white photographs from his personal collection and assembled them according to the visual motifs they create. In a highly personal style that is distinguished by its spare purity, he takes an intimate look at the symbolic - almost metaphysical - aspects of the urban North American landscape.

In 1995, Gagnon's contribution to the art world was recognized when he was awarded the Paul-Émile Borduas prize, the highest distinction of its kind in Quebec. During a stay in New York from 1955 to 1960, Gagnon was exposed to Expressionist painting, social documentary photography, jazz, John Cage's music, beat literature, and Zen buddhism. On returning to Montreal, he developed a personal, sensitive approach situated at the confluence of most of the artistic movements that have marked the past four decades.

In Observations, Charles Gagnon often portrays two zones of experience, the tamed, imprisoned, or codified world, and the inner world. He captures the real "here and now" of the urban and natural environment - a street scene of a derelict part of Greenwich Village, NY, a glimpse of the coat sleeve of a passerby, a line of urinals in the bathroom of Toronto's Union Station. However, his works also imply states of consciousness beyond the frame - a broader reality comprising the metaphysical existence of people and things, in a world that transcends time and space. The photographs offer the possibility of accessing that other world through a passage of some kind, or hint at how difficult such a passage might be. Gagnon's photographs are observations about life, not scientific communication tools. Rather, they are a means of communion in the artist's devoted and constant pursuit of knowledge.

A Meet the Art Critic tour has been planned to compliment the exhibition. On Sunday, February 27 at 2 pm, Penny Cousineau-Levine, author of the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, will discuss how the works of Charles Gagnon are archetypal Canadian photographs. The tour, offered free of charge, will be given in French, followed by a bilingual question period. Public tours in English and French will also offer a more in-depth experience of the exhibition.

The exhibition Charles Gagnon: Observations, organized and circulated by the Musée du Québec, is supported by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. The Musée du Québec is a Société d'État financed by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. The CMCP is an affiliate museum of the National Gallery of Canada.

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