Group exhibition "Un Soleil" - Nov. 12 to Jan. 16

Jaakko Mattila, A study with yellow, cyan and magenta, 2021, watercolour on paper, 140 x 140 cm. Photo: Jaakko Mattila

Un Soleil
Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

November 12, 2021 to January 16, 2022

Meet the artists: Saturday, November 13, from 2PM to 5PM
Maija Annikki Savolainen, Jaakko Mattila, Erik Nieminen, Julie Trudel

‘Un Soleil’
Writer: Mojeanne Behzadi

“Plunging ever more deeply into winter and night,
I wander through my faery palaces of light.
Another sun rising in my heart, I awaken a spring within,
warming the world with the fires of imagination.”
– Charles Baudelaire “Landscape” translated into English by James McColley Eilers (2010)

Light is a source. It is a source of existence, spirituality, science, thought, and creation. This exhibition brings together the work of four artists who connect in their exploration of light as a way to bring to the surface phenomena that are otherwise invisible, infinitesimal, and mysterious. Jaakko Mattila, Erik Nieminen, Maija Savolainen, and Julie Trudel work in a range of mediums and yet each is invested in working through different materialities that reflect light as a way to examine what perception systems reveal about sunlight and its properties.

Through meticulous examination and rigorous method, each practice reveals an invisible layer of reality just beyond reach that awakens endless possibilities. Here, the artists draw from contemporary technologies as well as timeless principles and processes to expand our field of perception and widen our access to phenomena, both natural and manufactured. Through mediated light, the works propel us into another world, under another sun. The electromagnetic spectrum and its chromatic aspects are here explored through both abstract and figurative painting, photography, and installation in a stimulating visual conversation between the artists whose individual practices playfully nod to one another and present new paths for exploration and creation.

In his paintings, Jaakko Mattila uses techniques of illusion to highlight and heighten humans’ limited chromatic experience. His latest watercolours present almost invisible tones that add a spectral presence to the otherwise bright white medium. His approach evokes a spectral field of vision, on the dark side of the moon.

Colour is the focus of Julie Trudel’s paintings, through the use of unique processes and specific materials. In her latest series, she achieved 3D paintings transmuted by light through the use of fluorescent Plexiglas as support, overlapping its colour with that of the walls and of discreet paint gradients.

In her practice, Maija Savolainen is interested in the photographic process as a series of gestures through which light is transformed from one state to another. Through her work, she explores this process of light reactivity using photography, plants, robotics, and text, showing the interconnectivity of both objects and living things and their respective ways of receiving light.

By experimenting with casting light on various plastics and transparent materials out in the world, Erik Nieminen begins his paintings through an exploration of the patterns and shapes and colours that projected light reveals. These initial moments of aesthetic interest intuitively guide the direction and content of each of his compositions. He also uses fragments of photos and videos in this process, creating alternate realities, at once figurative and abstract.

Couleur et lumière (2018)

2 minutes video

Noir d’ivoire et blanc de titane – couleur et lumière

Acrylic paint on folded and assembled colored acrylic sheets

Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montreal, from January 16 to February 23, 2019
NARS Foundation, Brooklyn, from October 12 to November 9, 2018

Having reduced my palette to black and white in 2012, I am trying, since 2015, to include ambient light in my work, by painting on clear acrylic supports (commonly known as plexiglass), using this material’s transparency, reflective properties, reversibility and plasticity. By adding light to the traditional aspects of abstract painting, I seek to create a visual complexity that speaks of our time in which the screen is everywhere.

In this new project, I tried to reintroduce colour in my work, by ways of the support. I was seduced by primary coloured fluorescent plexiglass that throws light on its edges. The challenge was to create a fascination for colour and light that would be mainly pictorial with this material heavily associated with design. Thus, I used the plexiglass as if it was the paint: paying close attention to the specific effects occurring in the material. To make the most out of it, I have given up patterns to favour gradients that occur when a thick coat of acrylic paint gets thinner and let the colour of the panel appear. These gradients alter the colours, make the panels opaque and reduce the quantity of light that gets through them.

I created 3D paintings that hang to the wall but juts out into the room to catch surrounding light. Contrasting coloured panels overlap, creating new colours, light effects, and veils. The wall itself, painted black under some paintings, changes their hue and enhance this layering. Reversible, the paintings look contradictory when seen from different sides. However, one can easily mentally deconstruct their components, entirely exposed. This power of a painting to create an illusion, even when its material reality lay bare, is an important part of this project. Between transparency and opacity, illusion and objecthood, these paintings embody contradictions.


All my gratitude to l’École des arts visuels et médiatiques and the Faculté des arts of UQAM, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Joe Plaskett Foundation for the financial support of this project. I would like to highlight the precious and tireless contribution of my skilful, intelligent and reliable studio assistant Éloïse Carrier. The technical support of David Allard Martin, Mario Baillargeon, Danny Glaude, Olivier Heaps-Drolet, Ianick Raymond and Jean Talbot were also essential to realizing this body of work.

Video: Guillaume Roy-Messier
Photographer: Jean-Michael Seminaro

Transparence et distorsion (2016)

Noir d’ivoire et blanc de titane – Transparence et distorsion

Acrylic paint and gesso on acrylic panels

Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montreal, from April 16 to May 28, 2016
Anna Leonowens Gallery, NSCAD University, Halifax, from November 17 to 28, 2015

Each piece is created on a very thin sheet of Plexiglas painted on one side before being bent into three sections through thermoforming. Two sections are painted in flat black tints, giving them a mirror-like quality, or in white, which reflects light. The third section is clear and covered in a pattern of translucent dots that seem to break away from the surface, producing the illusion of movement and depth. The folding of the two panels on either side of the central one produces a complex interplay of reflections between the three sections, while the concave shape it creates captures light and multiplies the effect of transparency or distortion within the cluster of dots. The choice of Plexiglas has deepened my research into the materiality of colour and light. The painting’s presentation in the gallery allows viewers to experience their near-sculptural nature as they extend into the exhibition space, and to witness how dramatically their appearance shifts depending on the angle of view.

All my gratitude to the Joseph Plaskett Foundation, the Triangle Arts Association, NSCAD University and the Robert Pope Foundation, who supported the development of this new project. My warmest thanks to my skilful and reliable studio assistants, Katie Lesser and Arkadi Lavoie Lachapelle, as well as Donald Thompson, Martin Schop and Atelier Clark, who helped resolve many technical challenges.

Photos: Guy L’Heureux

Tableaux grand format (2015)

Noir d’ivoire et blanc de titane – Tableaux grand format

Acrylic paint and gesso on acrylic panel

Galerie des Étables, Bordeaux, France, from December 11, 2014 to January 24, 2015

Choosing to paint exclusively in black and white represented a devious challenge: borrow a constraint from optical painters I admire while using opposite pictorial processes. Therefore, instead of deliberately painting colour patterns, I allowed matter itself to (de)form them. In my most recent project, I used thin flexible plexiglass panels. With my assistant’s help, I covered these supports with fresh paint and manipulated them in order to induce a displacement of liquid paint. The pattern of dots and trails that is generated by this process traces contradictory movements within the painting.

Thanks to: Centre Clark (Montreal) and the wonderful team at Zébra3 (Bordeaux) for being so welcoming and supportive. Above all, special thanks to Amélie Boileux for her invaluable contribution to this project.

Photos: Jean-Christophe Garcia.

Noir d'ivoire et blanc de titane (2014)

Noir d’ivoire et blanc de titane

Acrylic paint and gesso on MDF, mounted on Baltic birch plywood

Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Montreal, from January 23 to March 9, 2014

This series of paintings was created using ivory black and titanium white pigments that were diluted with a great quantity of acrylic medium in order to make them translucent. Stimulated by the challenge arising from this constraint, I sought to let an intense visual depth emerge, beyond the simplicity of grayscale. The superposition of a fine coat of liquid color on black or white panels allows the emergence, through transparency, of very peculiar shades of black, brown and gray. A dotted pattern with trails reflects the displacement of paint on a flexible support that was curved. The result is a corpus of works that is both simple and complex, optical and material, controlled and unpredictable.

Thanks to: Darling Foundry and Astérides.

Photos: Martin Désilets.

Noir de fumée et blanc de titane (2013)

Noir de fumée et blanc de titane

Acrylic paint and gesso on Baltic birch plywood

Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montreal, from November 9 to December 14, 2013
L’imagier, Gatineau, from January 17 to March 9, 2014
Galerie Colline, Edmundston, New Brunswick, from September 13 to October 20, 2013

These paintings were created using exclusively lampblack and titanium white pigments. The pure colors were simply diluted with a great quantity of gloss acrylic medium. By varying their degree of transparency and opacity, I was surprised to see a wide array of grays, with hints of color ranging from blue to brown, appear. Every series was created using a dripping process, which induces a predictable yet unique pattern. I used the various combinations of a color range limited to three shades of black and three shades of white, paying attention to the moments where a unified surface takes shape, while still hinting at the underlying layers below.

Thanks to: Est-Nord-Est artist residency and Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

Photos: Éliane Excoffier and Martin Désilets.

CMYK - Phase 2 (2012)

CMYK – Phase 2

Acrylic paint, gesso and screen printing ink on Baltic birch plywood

Optica, Montreal, from May 12 to June 16, 2012

Two series of paintings coexist and mingle in the gallery space. The Ellipses en transit are painted drop by drop like the paintings from phase 1, but part of the circular support is left exposed. From one painting to the other, I varied the color order (YCM, CMY, MCY, and so on). The illusions of depth or torsion that appear in the painted ellipse are contradicted by the marked presence of the wooden support, creating a spatial tension. The Flaques are made from a superposition of CMY or CMYK paint drops, of which I altered the transparency. A hint of white paint is often added to the mixture, changing the color tone from light to dark and its materiality from transparent to translucent.

Thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts.

Photos: Richard-Max Tremblay.