Maurice Raymond’s gestural art

Article by Claude Jasmin published in La Presse, on November 16, 1963 in the “Beaux-Arts” section.
Maurice Raymond’s “gestural art” (Maurice Raymond et l’ ” art gestuel “)

Living art. Nothing like the intellectual art of some of Quebec’s engravers. Nothing is less secret, nothing is more up front than these gouaches by Raymond, which are presently being exhibited at the Galerie Libre.

And what a beautiful exhibition it is! One of the most substantial since the beginning of the season. This is not about novelty or previously unpublished experiments. This is something much better, much more rare in any case: an exhibition where each painting is high quality work. This is more rare than one might think.

As I have just said, Raymond is not an innovator. He digs further into a very expressionistic investigation of gestural, “tachistic” art. And with such beautiful gestures! He belongs with the Hartungs and the Soulages of the art world.

It takes courage, boldness, or rather a certain modesty to work so hard to produce such an exhibition while pursuing a teaching career. Raymond presently works as the Director of Studies at the École des Beaux-Arts. How wonderful, how reassuring it is to see a public servant, a pedagogical counselor who is not afraid to get down to work and experiment in a personal manner, to take his place at the table and face the public and the critics. Let us hope that his example might be more often emulated by his colleagues in the teaching profession.

Raymond has impeccable taste (“Islandia”). His brush strokes could be compared to Oriental Art. He plays with combined shades in a manner that is both pleasant and dexterous (ochres, pale blues, lots of black and some white), a classic manner.

Often, Raymond uses gouache with plenty of water (“Chantier”), as a wash drawing in some places. And it is quite wrong to believe that gouache, watercolor, is easier than oil painting!… There is no chance for second tries or touch ups, and the artist must always take good aim and hit the target properly. Like boxing! So one must verbally and mentally meditate on one’s creations before committing them to paper. One must be inspired.

In “Propylées”, the substance of gouache becomes more obvious. This is a resounding success by a man of good taste, it is decorative art of indisputable substance.

Raymond has a fondness for blacks (he said so last Sunday in the course of a program called “Présence de l’art”), and this can be seen in “Métropole”. A shadowy object with two bright red eyes, a masked face, or is it caves and alleyways, there is mystery galore and dramatic lighting.

Raymond is able to forsake those sometimes rather easy effects based on sharp contrasts. He opts for warm shades (oranges, pinks) in “Tropique” or “Canicule” (“Heat Wave”). The first is better organized, more original (lines, stains and planes). “Vilargent” is more powerful than its counterpart “Chantier”, its spatial quality is richer, more profound, and there are fewer vacant areas.

Finally, it must also be said that Raymond also knows how to forsake his beautiful restraint, his iridescent colors and his almost too perfect sense of composition, to make way for a certain nervous lyricism. This has led to “Flambée”, and also “Capricorne”, which is a little less dynamic than the former.

He ventures as far as the loud and proud shades of “Patrioterie”, with its beautiful gestural freedom.

Maurice Raymond: a marvelous colorist, a gifted image maker. Once rid of any excessive concern for calculated harmonies, and any overwhelming need for well measured, always vertical compositions, he could well become the best Canadian representative of this wonderfully seductive art of the lyrical gesture.

Raymond was born in Montreal in 1912. He received two scholarships from Quebec and Ottawa. He was an award winner at the Concours Artistiques du Québec in 1945. After several collective exhibitions, this is his first solo exhibition since the one he held at the collège Brébeuf in 1954.

It is not surprising to hear Raymond say: “I like the sobriety of what lays within, more than the offensiveness of what is usually exhibited these days at the Galerie Libre.”

© Copyright - Maurice Raymond, painter