Self-taught artist Roger Cantin was born in Quebec in 1930 (died in 2018) and completed his studies at the École des beaux-arts in Quebec City in 1964 to begin his career as a figurative painter. In his paintings, he uses watercolour and acrylic painting. His works are distinguished by his mastery of space (composition), shape (simplicity) and colour (using black, white, blue, green, yellow, ocher often dominated by shades of gray).
Cantin is a sensitive and reserved artist who infuses the soul of the objects and landscapes he paints. He paints with an inner vision of things, he is inspired by his subject rather than copying it. Cantin is particularly fond of Quebec houses, the streets of Old Quebec, interior settings, landscapes and still lifes.
“Roger Cantin’s painting is a closely guarded treasure, as though it were hiding from the prying eyes of amateurs in too much of a hurry. Without being a timid act, his paintings express, with infinite delicacy, the intimacy of a man both quiet and worried. The different shades of gray that characterize so well his approach describe the fragility of humans, moving through their lives in attempt to dodge obstacles. This dull and yet very noticeable quietness hides deep emotion. In short, the work of Roger Cantin deserves to be watched, cajoled, and looked at, to finally reveal the strength of this extraordinary painter. Well known for his landscapes and still lifes – built around his finds in flea markets – his art is also enriched by characters painted with great simplicity and brought to sight with great fondness.” Robert Bernier
Quebec artist Roger Cantin’s paintings are part of many public and private collections. He is represented by a dozen contemporary art galleries in Quebec.
For more than three decades now, Roger Cantin’s star has been shining in the firmament of traditional Quebec figurative painting. Calm, meditative, contemplative, the artist seeks through painting to translate this peaceful state that inhabits him. However, it is a matter of relative peace, because beneath this appearance of soft tranquility lies a certain inner febrility, a dull anxiety, a delicate apprehension of the world. Cultivating its wild, solitary side, Cantin roams the streets of Old Quebec or its immediate vicinity, in the northern suburbs of Quebec, in search of objects or inspiring points of view. He regularly tours antique dealers on St-Paul Street for the pleasure of discovering old objects that, one day or another, will serve as a model for him.
The relationship he weaves with the objects he collects — teapots, pots, toys, boxes, etc. — is not empty. It is enough to observe the artist in the presence of his discoveries to realize to what point the individual is transformed upon their contact: he feels, feels, palpates the form, becomes impregnated with it, then, after a moment, his face lights up. The object becomes its own, and that, far beyond physical belonging.
Across all figurative pictorial production, a universe largely governed by tradition, the work of Roger Cantin stands out in several ways. First, he knew how to impose his style, not out of careerism, but by the force of things. The success came in spite of himself, the amateurs and the collectors having exerted, by their enthusiasm, a pressure which left him little choice. This is how his urban landscapes, these old districts which come to life under a palette dominated by the grays, have slowly but surely carved a place for themselves on the rails of Quebec. The truncated perspectives and the large flat areas which enslave the shades of gray, dividing them or uniting them in Greek with the inspiration of the creator, are all elements of his work which elevate his painting towards this delicate feverishness which constitutes his distinctive mark as an artist.
Cantin does not pretend to reinvent painting, nor does he pose as a theorist. His plastic language belongs to the tradition of modernity which brought, at the beginning of the twentieth century, new light on how to translate physical reality. Today, this tradition continues to influence many artists. Cantin knew how to find a register which is specific to himself: an expressive basis in which a double need to scrutinize the hidden recesses of his memories and to conceive a world in transit between being and non-being, between darkness and sleepless nights.
Source : Robert Bernier, La peinture au Québec depuis les années 1960, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2002, Cantin Roger Cantin (1930), pages 302-303.