Claude Tousignant (1932-) was born in Montreal, Quebec and believes that a painting “happens” in space and he is indebted to his predecessors Piet Mondrian and the constructivists for this artistic assertion. Tousignant attended the School of Art and Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1948-51), where he studied with Jacques de Tounnancour and Gordon Webber. Webber, a painter, architect and former pupil of Moholy Nagy, introduced Tousignant to works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Adolf Gottlieb at the museum’s Contemporary Art in France, Britain and the USA exhibition (1950). In 1952 Tousignant travelled to Paris, where he was disappointed with the Paris School, finding, on his return six months later, that the thriving Montreal artistic community was much more in keeping with his own sensibilities. In recent years, Tousignant has primarily concentrated on monochromatic canvases, seeing paintings as “beings” rather than representations that derive their meaning from outside themselves. The artist lives and works in Montreal.
Claude Tousignant, Monochrome Crimson, 1981. acrylic on canvas, 266.7 x 266.7 x 13.3 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Gift of the artist, Montreal, 1995. Photo © NGC.
At the fore of the second generation of Les Plasticiens in Quebec in the 1950s, Claude Tousignant became a central figure in the development of geometric abstraction in Canada. In 1959 the artist stated: “What I wish to do is to make painting objective, to bring it back to its source – where only painting remains, emptied of everything extraneous to it – to the point at which painting is nothing but sensation.” He has remained focused on the primacy of this aesthetic experience throughout his career. As an autonomous, architectural object placed directly on the floor, Monochrome Crimson becomes instantaneously sculptural, intrinsically related to both the viewer and to the space in which it is situated.