Modern & Contemporary Art

specialises in framed modern and contemporary art by 20th century artists

Therrien’s wall reliefs

Therrien’s wall reliefs, by their dual, ambiguous status as paintings/sculptures are well equipped to mediate between real and imaginary space. The reliefs partake of the potentiality that is central to drawing as an activity. In their case the white wall becomes an imaginary ground analogous to a blank sheet of paper, that functions as a matrix of silence and potentiality from which the image crystallizes. The habitual sparseness of Therrien’s exhibitions, the way he likes to surround his sculptures with a good deal of empty space, contributes to the interiority of the work, to its feeling of suspension, and to its dual sense of internal concentration and spaciousness. Generally, in Therrien’s art the contours of the sculptures are more accentuated and defined than the interior areas. The schematic nature of his shapes in contrast to the objects’ subtly moulded or inflected volumes and surfaces, supports a dual sense of abstraction and corporeality. Distributed in the gallery space the objects appear as discrete yet morphologically resonant individuals. Their partial abstractness is reinforced by the atopic abstractness of the white gallery space itself. By virtue of their discreteness as objects, by their ambiguous status as nouns and as verbs (“Keyhole” (1995), for example, represents equally a thing, an empty space, and the act of looking (1)), and by the sense of suspension which operates in the work in various ways, Therrien’s objects become endowed with an augmented metaphoricity that invites imaginative engagement and speculation.

Often Therrien’s sculptures are cued to actual things in his immediate surroundings, things that happen to suggest formal conundrums, or that trigger fantasies and memories whether of other artworks or of personal experiences. Occasionally, too, works are prompted by stories read. Therrien likes fiction and poetry that relies heavily on visual descriptions of things to convey a character’s emotional life or situation, such as in the poetry of Robert Creeley, the stories of Willa Cather and the fiction of Steven Millhauser. These descriptions, true to his own sculptures, are not detailed but are kept as simple and general as possible.

Queen’s Nails Annex in conjunction with the Outpost for Contemporary Art

Outpost ARt at Worky

While it would be a mistake to overemphasize the impact of personal memories on Therrien’s iconography, as this would upset the balance that holds in his work between its formal/structural and its psychological aspects, I want to isolate a certain thematic strand that runs through his work and contributes a definite psychological valence to it. I am referring to certain images in the work that belong to traditional religious iconography – a coffin; a chapel; a gothic arch; a red demon; a primitive head with a halo; a silver tray bearing the cameo silhouette bust of an anonymous person, which conflates aspects of the memento and votive object; an angular construction that reads as a gantry or a scaffold (with connotations perhaps of the child’s word game “Hangman”), or else as a truncated cross; and, finally, an image nicknamed the “Dutch Door” (1996) that (especially in its graphic version) smuggles in a disguised cruciform under the mantle of its constructivist, emblematic formality. From these examples I would argue that there are various coded traces in Therrien’s work of an interest in the sacred and that the subterraneity or guarded position of this interest reflects the problematic status of the sacred, its unspeakability, in our culture. The problematic status of the sacred today is signaled and aggravated by its almost total eclipse from high-brow culture and its betrayal in popular culture through the tragic polarization of its belief structures between brute materialism and antediluvian fundamentalism. I would suggest that Therrien’s art seeks to dissolve this unfortunate dichotomy and that it mediates between sacrality and banality.

Published by Delores Jackson, on April 27th, 2019 at 10:56 pm. Filled under: UncategorizedNo Comments

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