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By Henri-Frédéric Amiel

He asked if I was ready to make sacrifices, in which case I ought to leave my job and take courses at the museum.

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Yves Gaucher, videotaped interview with Chris Youngs, unpublished. In Gaucher resigned from Imperial Oil and enrolled in the museum school. Gaucher refused to take courses that did not interest him. He knew what he wanted from the school, did not want to waste time, and felt competent to pick and choose his own program. After a year and a half he was expelled for insubordination, but a change in administration shortly afterward allowed him to return on his own terms, and he continued to attend until His own work, however, was beginning to get attention.

De quoi? In and early , having bought a handbook of techniques, Gaucher began to experiment with Old Master etching techniques but quickly found etching too limiting. Printmaking, in contrast to painting, could be broken down into staged processes that gave him lots of time to reflect. Step by step he set out to free himself from traditional printing practices with vigorous experimentation and innovation, working especially with unprecedented heavy embossing techniques. He quickly won national and international attention—as well as prizes at major print shows from across Canada to Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, and Grenchen, Switzerland—and had solo shows at Galerie Godard-Lefort in Montreal and the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York.

In Gaucher began taking regular trips to New York both to satisfy his appetite for jazz and to visit museums and art galleries. During this period he also developed a passion for Indian music , along with Eastern philosophy, which would have a profound influence on his art. His first visit to Paris, in the fall of , offered a number of life-changing experiences. In his suite of three prints from titled In Homage to Webern , Gaucher strove to find visual equivalents for the new music.

In Paris he visited the exhibition of Mark Rothko — that he had already seen the previous year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the large paintings of the American Abstract Expressionist becoming a model for how he wanted his future painting to enrapture its viewers into a state of sustained trance. As well, seeing the work of Rothko and other American artists like Jasper Johns b. In , on the strength of a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, Gaucher rented a larger studio in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri.

By he was supporting himself with monthly stipends from the three galleries that showed his work, in Montreal, Toronto, and New York. The couple rented a rambling flat in Old Montreal, where Gaucher set up a press in one room and a painting studio in another.

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The larger studio space allowed for bigger paintings. In Gaucher moved into a former church on De Bullion Street. In , with his Square Dances series of paintings, Gaucher entered fully formed into the world of hard-edge chromatic abstraction that, along with the Stripe Paintings of Guido Molinari — and the targets of Claude Tousignant b.

Gaucher stopped the Grey on Grey series at the end of , concluding that he had effectively explored all the possibilities originally opened up by the Webern prints six years earlier. He then entered a period of doubt about how to proceed.

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Henri:a novel of indecisions

By , however, Gaucher had regained his stride and over the next three decades produced one astonishing series of paintings after another, never losing his creative momentum. Throughout this time he also continued to draw and make prints. Even as art world fashions changed during the late s and the s, and painting was dismissed as an outmoded practice from a number of directions— Minimalism , Conceptual art , postmodernist theory—Gaucher continued to sustain an active professional career, getting more regular exposure in Toronto than in Montreal, through commercial galleries such as Gallery Moos, Marlborough Godard Gallery later Mira Godard Gallery , and Olga Korper Gallery.

The New York Cultural Center staged a retrospective exhibition in Gaucher, if he was ascetically exacting in his art, enthusiastically enjoyed the good life. He and Germaine travelled extensively, collected pre-Columbian art, cultivated exotic orchids, and built a Zen garden. His humour was wry and his studio conversation a mixture of dead seriousness and mischievous evasion, especially when the topic was his own art practice.

Henri: A Novel of Indecisions

He was a tough negotiator with his dealers, sometimes breaking with them precipitously and bitterly. Always individualistic in his stance, Gaucher was nevertheless a prominent figure on the Canadian art scene. In he was appointed assistant professor at Sir George Williams University now Concordia University , where he taught printmaking and then painting until his death. He was a prominent member of Canada Council of the Arts advisory committees and juries, who remembered with particular fondness the late s and the s when juries made studio visits and formed personal relationships with colleagues across the country.

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