Canadian Grand Master, the painter Jean-Pierre Lafrance was born in Montreal in 1943. At the age of sixteen, he studied drawing and painting at the School of Fine Arts in Montreal. He continued his studies at Studio Salette in Montreal, then working in the workshops of the sculptor and muralist Jordi Bonet and the Workshop of the island in Val-David, Quebec, where he mastered the many techniques of lithography and screen printing. His painting is the link between the body and the universe, in situational and time.
“I never decide in advance what my paintings look like. I work spontaneously and the result is the consequence of my state of mind at the time. An unexpected gesture, a drop of paint flowing and it is all the work finding a new meaning. “He summarizes his painting: “My painting is considered abstract and somewhere it is, but I know she’s not really, I always start something, a theme that although it is most often vague, gives me the initial impulse of the line, from the start, but along the way, as it often happens that things are changing. “
“After a career in fashion design and advertising illustration, Jean-Pierre Lafrance began to emerge in the world of visual arts in the late 1980s. And his painting has almost no relationship with his previous jobs, if one thing in common: the body. Until the late 1990s, it is apparent that highly interpreted and treated by a plastically fragmented material. The recognizable shape remains intimate and without details. Shadows, souls … Then the non-figuration is required. Does the body disappear? Not really. He hides, he is from the inside. This artist needs to feel, to touch with everything that surrounds it. His working sessions looking trance and, once established, its wonderful and incredible intuition does the rest of the work by matching with the great all … ” Robert Bernier
Quebec artist painter, over the years, Jean-Pierre Lafrance has participated in numerous exhibitions in Canada and abroad, including the United States, Mexico and France. Several articles in various newspapers and journals were devoted to him.
Jean-Pierre Lafrance (1943)
A particularly interesting aspect of Jean-Pierre Lafrance’s artistic career is the speed at which he transforms his gaze on the canvas. The periods follow each other rapidly and, over the past fifteen years, its plastic language has changed considerably. The most extraordinary thing is that, despite these multiple phases, it marks the support with the same spirit, pursuing the same quest. The most striking transformation he has made is undoubtedly his passage from suggestive figuration to non-figuration.
In the early 1990s, he began designing electrical panels, in the true sense of the term. He mixed concrete with acrylic pigment, painted his painting, then inserted it into a box that contains a light source. Depending on whether the light was on or off, the painting appeared in two different states, providing a double of itself. Lafrance abandoned the project to return to it in 1999, when he was entrusted with the production of a work for a major artistic event, Passart, to be held the following summer in Abitibi. For the artist, the case is a metaphor for the body, the ultimate envelope through which all of our contact with the exterior is accomplished.
Generally speaking, the work of Jean-Pierre Lafrance has an important spiritual dimension, even if it is not put in the foreground. Epidermal, his painting reflects the tenuous link between the body with the universe; the one that surrounds it and the one that hides inside each individual. His painting is introspective. It expresses itself in a compulsive manner and manifests an ever greater distance from reality. This distance becomes beneficial on the pictorial level, because it allows the artist – although it may seem paradoxical – a more intimate gaze. Knowing how to take the right distance when it comes to translating what surrounds us, or rather what we experience through the prism of our experiences, is a fundamental operation, a major challenge for all high-level creators, an act of consciousness, of lucidity. We can only experience reality through ourself.
All of Jean-Pierre Lafrance’s work is based on his own relationship with life. Can we therefore speak of an autobiographical work? Yes, since every creative process is deeply rooted in oneself: and no, since Lafrance does not tell his life story: he transposes onto the medium the codification of the intimate bond that unites him to the world. His painting is situational, in the sense that it expresses a state of being. Consequently, it carries within it a temporality, that of a present lived with such intensity that the infinite and the indefinite do not fail to merge into it.
Lafrance remains above all a man of intuition; he goes where he feels his own sources coming: within himself. This is why the body has so far dominated its purpose. It is precisely in relation to this theme that the most vital transformation of his approach has taken place. During the first years of his production, and until the end of the 1980s, he approached this theme from the outside, that is to say, above all by translating the body in its visible, perceptible expressions. Today, it’s the inside of the envelope that interests him. His most recent production, in which many – including myself – believed they recognized an inspiration from the landscape, is eloquent in this regard. In this series, he pursues the same quest for the body, which he fragments even further. This body is today one with its environment, taking shape in a bubbling of matter or fits the notion of volume.
The term “volume” is essential here, and it should not be confused with “perspective”, because Jean-Pierre Lafrance transposes on the canvas this singularity of body and matter, and that, without deconstructing as the cubists did. He fragments and unites the body in a molecular dance that respects the two-dimensional reality of the support. A great plastic and aesthetic success, a series that never ceases to amaze us.
Source : Robert Bernier, La peinture au Québec depuis les années 1960, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2002, Lafrance Jean-Pierre Lafrance (1943), pages 187-189.
Celebration of color
Jean-Pierre Lafrance is known as a painter and for good reason, his painting has established itself over the past 25 years. And not only in Quebec. What art lovers are less familiar with, however, is that he is also a sculptor and occasionally does installation. Without forgetting the engraving and the drawing… As a creator, he likes the challenge which imposes on him the monumental. And when the opportunity arises, in both painting and sculpture, he dives eagerly into public works projects. One of his major works (painting) can be seen in the lobby of the building that houses the headquarters of the International Civil Organization in Montreal. There is also a large bas-relief at the Boucherville Multifunctional Center, as well as a monumental sculpture in Senneterre to mention just that one…
Multidisciplinary, this aspect gives his approach a particular dimension since each of the disciplines he practices draws from the others. Thus his painting is enriched by his sculpture, prints, large from small, and vice versa … His production is important, he works every day and projects never fail – and that is when he is not busy building or expanding a house, a workshop, for himself, for one of his children or for a friend. Tireless, Jean-Pierre Lafrance has an insatiable appetite for creation!
This fall he presented several exhibitions: one in Montreal, two in Toronto, another in New York and finally, another as a group in Montreal. And what’s interesting about its current production is the momentum that has animated it, which propelled it, I should write, in the making of recent works. He has been particularly intense for the past year and it shows in every canvas, in every sculpture, as if there were an emergency. The sculpture would have been his starting point, his initial inspiration. The trigger came while he was working on a series of sculptures with the human head as a theme. The paintings that followed developed with this same energy and with matter, if not more abundant than in the preceding series, certainly more significant for him. And for good reason! In this series even more particularly, although this is also true for all of its production, the material is revealed as a whole: a symbol of life and death, a deep and personal identity relationship, its link with the material is fundamental. Even more in the last works.
Why the head? It was the starting point. It evoked for the artist identity cards with photo. The questions that this brought to him quickly took the direction of a complex inner world. Since Jean-Pierre Lafrance did not think with words… Well, yes, of course, but not like the common people… In him, it is as if his reflections, his thought, passed through his feelings, his impulses as if they were filters. This inevitably sends him back to himself, as if somewhere in him, he had created a space in which were accumulating a multitude of states, of lived moments which overlap in each other in an infinity of combinations. A library of diverse emotions, more or less refined, sometimes conscious, often not, and which, in turn, contained sophisticated and contradictory suites of impressions ultimately putting into action his cognitive and sensory senses. What some call the experience, the intimate. For Lafrance, this takes the form of a multi-layered experience in which his relationships with life are spread out. A sum. This is precisely what he expresses with great intensity and ardor in each of the paintings, sculptures, drawings or prints that leave his studio.
Jean-Pierre Lafrance is a curious being, he wants to learn, see, be surprised, always, all the time. He is still in a state of need and urgency. This singular state of mind allows him to face certain extreme situations with more greed than fear, like three years ago, when he had to have heart surgery, when he had just been told that he might have to change it… He who sometimes, from his home on the banks of the Richelieu, feels the river blurred…
You will understand that his link between his body and the outside world is very tenuous. And precisely, his series on identity expresses this unique relationship between his job, his life, his world in its reality. Above all, it expresses his experience, his life. As if he closed the loop. Each of his works in this series is like a view of his inner being and despite the suggestiveness that it implies to paint with so much proximity to oneself, his greatest achievement is to have managed to do it with a certain objectivity, as a lucid observation of the present. From this arises states of being pleasurable, explosive, raging and happy. As if he invited us to share a great feast. A feast of being. An identity wedding… Without make-up. Just between us and him…
Source : Robert Bernier, Revue Parcours, Parcours Art & Art de vivre, numéro 71, November 2010 to February 2011, Jean-Pierre Lafrance, pages 29-33.