Charles Gagnon: A Survey of Photographs

Charles Gagnon (born Montréal, May 23, 1934; died April 16, 2003) is a major figure in Canadian contemporary art who, along with Michael Snow, was one of the few multidisciplinary artists of his generation. A common theme in his many artistic experiments, whether painting, photography, collage, film, sound, or sculpture, is the material results of his eclectic yet reflective take on existence. His limitless curiosity and deep interest in astronomy, history, mathematics, and philosophy led him to create a fresh and eloquent body of work.

While studying, living, and working in New York City from 1955 to 1960, Gagnon pursued painting and photography. Returning to Montréal, Gagnon's impressive career is evidenced in the masterworks that he created in numerous mediums, which now grace important public and private collections across Canada and around the world.

His fascination with photography is represented by several key moments. Our exhibition will feature photographs from the artist’s estate, including Gagnon’s original Polaroid SX-70 prints, and gelatin silver prints he made while using the Minox camera in the late 1970’s. With the eye of a flâneur, Gagnon flirts with the exterior world, giving flowers, landscapes, deserts, and mysterious cloud formations a new aesthetic significance. We will also exhibit work from Gagnon’s 1990’s series Tables de matière and Mythes. These two series highlight Gagnon’s fascinating use of the medium to explore issues that occupied a mature artist’s mind, and which closely relate to paintings he made at the same time.

Listed amongst his many awards are the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts; Prix du Québec; Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas; Doctorat Honoris Causa, Université de Montréal; Chevalier, Ordre du Québec; and The Donald Cameron Medal, Banff Centre.