Fall 2016 - 1st Session Live auction
Lot # 037
AANFM LP QMG RCA SAPQ 1933 - 2004 Canadian
acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled and dated on various labels, dated 1/1967 and inscribed with the estate #GMT-1967
80 x 60 in 203.2 x 152.4cm
Estate of the Artist
First, a few words about the title, Mutation bi-sérielle. The “series” alluded to refers to the succession of coloured stripes we see in the painting. If you “read” the painting from left to right, as you would do with text, you encounter successively green, brown, blue, red, purple and yellow ochre vertical stripes, then the same succession of colours repeated once more, revealing the meaning of the “bi-” in the title. Why speak of “Mutation” or change then? If you look more attentively, you will see that even though it is painted in the same colour, a stripe can slightly change colour depending on its position in the sequence of colours. For instance, the green seems brighter in the middle of the painting than on the left side. In the centre it is surrounded by ochre and purple, and seems to stand out in this new context. Elsewhere, the succession of blue and red, two primary colours, seems to enhance each of them, as if they were a perfect match. So there is some change in this apparently static form.
Guido Molinari used to say that his colour was “energetic,” or even “emotional,” rather than simply atmospheric, meaning “pure” instead of mixed with other colours or with black or white. Atmospheric colour tries to reflect the shades we find in nature, while “energetic” colour tends to be completely saturated and with no equivalent, except in rare instances, with the complex colour we find in nature. Of course, Molinari was an abstract painter and wanted to be as far away as possible from colours as we find them in nature. His painting intends to reflect an order of the mind rather than of the world around us. Working with acrylic as he did, it was not easy to achieve the pure colours he was looking for. Contrary to oil, acrylic cannot absorb as much pigment by unit of paint. To get the same effects of saturation in acrylic as in oil, you have to add many layers of paint, one above the other. Each layer keeps a certain transparency that makes the layer under it visible. In that way, their effect can add up. I remember Molinari telling me that he could add up to 18 layers of paint to get the effect he wanted to achieve. The final effect is stunning indeed in our Mutation bi-sérielle.
Why, on the other hand, this presentation in vertical stripes? As much as his colour was pure, saturated, and far from the colour usually found in nature, Molinari also wanted his art to be as far as possible from an image that could evoke landscape or other imitative reflections of nature. If his coloured stripes had been presented horizontally, for instance, the temptation to read them as a series of planes receding one after the other in space and creating an illusion of depth would have been strong. This vertical format completely avoids this possibility. The painting eliminates any illusionist reading in three dimensions, presenting itself instead as a pure bi-dimensional surface.
Abstract painters such as Piet Mondrian or Barnett Newman spoke often of the flatness of their painting, and they denounced as illusionist the traditional landscape or portrait painting. As the pioneer French abstract artist Maurice Denis said in a famous quote, “Remember that a painting—before it is a battle horse, a nude model, or some anecdote—is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.” Molinari could not agree more. Mutation bi-sérielle is a beautiful, one could say “classical” Molinari from the end of the sixties.
We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $100,000 ~ $150,000 CAD
Sold For: $306,800.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)