Canadian Art


Pascal Grandmaison: Star Power

Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto Apr 2 to 30 2011
Pascal Grandmaison <em>Moment of Reason</em> 2011 Pascal Grandmaison Moment of Reason 2011

Pascal Grandmaison <em>Moment of Reason</em> 2011

With a solo exhibition this past winter at Galerie René Blouin and a major museum survey show at Casino Luxembourg until May 1, it’s already been a big year for Montreal artist Pascal Grandmaison. So it is perhaps not surprising to find that in his current exhibition at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects in Toronto, Grandmaison is thinking big too. Universal energy, the nature of light and the shifting balance of power between the natural and man-made world are thematic constants throughout this tight selection of new and recent photo works and videos.

In Moment of Reason, a telescopic view of the surface of the sun bursting with solar flares is inverted into black on a generic yellow ground. It’s an attempt to visually expose the arbitrary nature of universal power: after all, the life-giving energy of the sun can also be a disruptive force, with its blasts of electromagnetic activity unexpectedly blacking out earthbound electronics and communications. One of the photo’s four panels is flipped to further exaggerate this existential pause or “moment of reason” that comes, as Grandmaison puts it, as a “break in the sequence of time.” Ten works from the larger photo series If one travelled in a straight line put another positive/negative shift on elemental perspectives, this time addressing the dynamics of light. Here, Grandmaison fashioned sculptural shapes with a bendable toy that he then photographed and digitally inverted. The result is a suite of images that run counter to hard science’s linear paths, offering instead poetic expressions of twisted light, shadow and abstract form.

Pascal Grandmaison One Eye Open 2011 Video extract

Grandmaison is known for exacting photographic skills and a mechanical precision that often creates a palpable tension between measured execution and elegiac potential. It’s that fine balance between technical mastery and poetic sensibility that brings his works alive. Two video works in the exhibition play to these strengths by taking on the uneasy divide between nature and artifice. Soleil différé is a 15-minute sequence of lulling, black-and-white vignettes shot on location last October on Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame, both built from landfill for Montreal’s Expo 67. In the video we see the iconic futuristic architecture and sprawling landscape of the 1967 world’s fair returning to nature: an ode to Expo’s great (though artificially grounded) promise is captured, for instance, in crisp, contrasting impressions of the cobweb-draped joints of Buckminster Fuller’s tetrahedral dome and of windswept leaves or rushing water in a seemingly abandoned parkland. That troubled dichotomy of the natural and the artificial is reversed in One Eye Open. Working again in black and white, Grandmaison brings an arrangement of polyester flowers to life in a staccato sequence of silent close-up shots. Leaves, flowers and stems seem to pulse and grow in these sped-up images, asking us to reconsider our expectations of what is real, what is lasting and what it takes to achieve a moment of reason.

This article was first published online on April 21, 2011.


  • Dan Perjovschi: Drawing Criticism

    Dan Perjovschi’s large-scale installations of critically edged drawings on gallery walls have been featured at the Venice Biennale, Tate Modern and other notable venues. With his latest project now on in Toronto, Bryne McLaughlin talks with the artist about his life and work.

  • Pascal Grandmaison

    Stanley Kubrick wasn’t much for dialogue. He let the camera tell the story, often leaving his viewers wading through a narrative in a bath of visually expressed ideas.

  • Jon Sasaki: Oh Hopeful Me

    Toronto artist Jon Sasaki has built a body of work on effort and failure that resurrects the existential comedies of Buster Keaton. Two current shows promise highlights from Sasaki’s smart-yet-slapstick practice and offer counterpoint to blinded-by-success trends in the art world.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem