TOWARD DEFINITIONS
by Georges Bogardi  

 Toward definitions, by Georges Bogardi

Toward definitions, by Georges Bogardi

“IT HAS BECOME CLEAR that the bugaboo which has been plaguing contemporary painting all during the sixties was the Tradition of the New. Partly due to this fact the most important work being done now is that which looks old but which stems from new (hardly considered before) intentions by new people, or new people heretofore distinguished by tincture".

Critic Frank Bowling‘s insight helps to identify the reason for the impatience and mistrust we feel when confronted with the works of many young painters. David Bolduc‘s canvases at Marlborough-Godard and Leopold Plotek's at Concordia University are easy to like for their purely esthetic qualities: pleasing color. spatial sophistication and vigor. They are more difficult to appreciate as original statements: they simply don't look new.

Throughout the 50s and 60s our expectations were borne aloft by an inflationary spiral of innovative art. We came to demand — and got — a seemingly unending series of revelations from painters who continued to provide readily identifiable personal statements which became instantly clear-cut additions to the communal pool of painterly communication. What Roland Barthes identifies as the three dimensions of form-language, style and "écriture" — instantly coalesced into one.

Personal utterance (écriture) and the artist's biological or biographical impulse for distributing signs. the impulse Barthes calls style, quickly became additions to the vocabulary of means shared and exploited by all: language.

If, for the moment, painting's capacity to engender language seems to be at an ebb, the potential of creating original works is by no means exhausted. The second generation abstractionists (or is it the third by now?) are making use of an existing language which has absorbed but not yet digested whole blocks of styles. The current abstraction does not look new, but it is succeeding in the definition and refining of a number of styles, and the striving for personal utterance continues.

David Bolduc‘s last show was of structured color-field canvases: abstract landscapes. In the recent series of works he has taken up a set of problems first delineated by Hans Hoffmann, and makes use of, the gestural behavior of the expressionists. Bolduc builds expansive areas of texture composed of layers of contrasting tones and varying density. Where Hoffmann used rectangles of solid color to establish surface in order to point out that the textured areas of his paintings were fields of color, and not the nebulous infinite space of the Surrealists, Bolduc uses "windows" or fissures which reveal the bare canvas underneath and pull the eye back to the surface. Bolduc‘s paintings are successful visual statements because of their sumptuous color and the dramatic push-pull effect exerted by the varying densities of texture.

Most importantly, his originality is defined by the delicate and particular balance he achieves in paintings like Jasmine and Widows Peak. between the size and contour of the “windows" and the size and shape of the canvas.

Leopold Plotek's paintings are no less powerful, but their intentions escape definition. at least by this spectator. Painted on raw, un-stretched. shaped canvas. they are built of architectonic elements of vivid color. In Swiss Movement, a compelling work, the semi-circular surface is set in motion by overlapping segments of color. The space created is ambiguous; as in the works of the French Support/surface school, the segments of bare canvas act as breathing space. They separate the colored areas and prevent them from creating space. In Plotek‘s other paintings, color is totally absolved of this traditional responsibility: the elements are assembled into dynamic structures. One thinks of Anthony Caro's lyrical-disciplined sculptures which, in Clement Greenberg‘s phrase "liberate the structural logic of ordinary, ponderable things".