Guy Boutin has long been associated with the effervescent, multi-coloured universe of the 1980s. Emerging from the Montreal underground scene that gravitated around poetry, comic books and live painting, his atypical path led him through Montreal's cult venues and events,1 where his urgent need to create meaning was expressed through the indomitable spirit of his gestures and the intensity of the present moment.
It is within this urban setting that, early on in his career as a restless, self-taught artist, Guy Boutin discovered graffiti and comic books and began developing a pictorial language that was more akin to tagging than to drawing, with the rhythmic coloured lines and forms that are still present in his work today.
His broad-stroked sketches depict a series of recurring figures such as painters, monsters or women, in compositions that seem chaotic and random at first, but gradually reveal a balanced effect between foreground and background. “Raw” and “tribal” easily come to mind when describing the vibrant strength of his visual language.
Boutin attacks his surfaces spontaneously, fully immersing himself with the pictorial space. Whether on a wall or a canvas, Boutin makes his surfaces come to life through his use of pure colour and by working at the edge of impulse and sensation. As such, the gestural nature of his compositions tends more toward the expressive and the abstract than the figurative. For Boutin, painting is essentially the most direct way of surpassing and knowing oneself. Moreover, he gravitates toward cheap or found materials, such as used cardboard or the city’s walls; for him, these raw elements make the worthiest surfaces.
While several artistic influences can be identified in his work, especially in terms of colour and composition, these are primarily inspirational. They include Asian pop art, Japanese comics, German Expressionism, Joan Miro, Keith Haring, Luciano Castelli, the Di Rosa brothers, François Boisrond, André Butzer and Jonathan Meese.
The works presented at CLARK will allow viewers to immerse themselves into Boutin’s visual universe. Some of his previous works will be shown alongside a series of new paintings and sculptures made of found materials, created on site and displayed “salon-style” in the gallery.
While Guy Boutin’s art is now shown in galleries and owned by private collectors, his notoriety within the more established system of contemporary art has not yet matched the abundance of his production. He remains one of the most prolific painters of his generation in Montreal.
- Sonia Pelletier (translated by Jo-Anne Balcaen)
1. Among these, Foufounes électriques, the galerie Dépanneur, the Soirées Hiboux at Bar le Hasard, Café Campus, and Casa Obscura
Guy Boutin was born in Montreal, where he currently lives and works. Initially drawn to the world of comic books, he made art as a self-taught painter before studying visual arts at UQAM between 1985 and 1990. During this same period, he discovered tagging and graffiti, and painted murals as live performances. Boutin was part of the alternative comics scene in the 1990s, and published the zine WAHCOMIX, which became widely known both locally and abroad. He also contributed to the zine Steak Haché, for which he received the Langue de Feu prize. Long associated with the city’s music and literary scenes, he created images for bands such as Overbass, Les Chiens, and morceaux_de_machine. He has frequently collaborated with poet Denis Vanier, and contributed to two literary publications edited by Jonathan Lamy.
Boutin’s work has been presented by several private galleries, including Riverin-Arlogos, Robert Poulin, and Yves Laroche, and his work is included in many private collections. He has also held numerous solo exhibitions throughout Québec, as well as group exhibitions in Canada, the US and in France.