Two new works at West Branch by Richard Cloutier are part of his The New Remains series of paintings. These acrylics on panel clearly exemplify his training as an architect in their precision and clean lines. Structure, line, hypothetical perspective and shape are all hallmarks of Cloutier’s paintings, as is his undeniable love of color. Pale turquoise, subdued mauve, chalky white − all his colors are subtle washes immersed in crisp line. The architect and painter unite.
“My work is motivated by an intimate struggle between being an architect and being a painter,” Cloutier said. “But at some point I want my paintings to stay outside the logic of perfection associated with architecture. I want them to stay in the virtual reality of this very old medium of painting. I see my works as promises, as remains of spaces, at once recognizable and eluding.”
Usually working on three or four paintings at the same time, Cloutier sets a number of loose “rules” to start a series, confining himself to a certain palette and structure. After drawing in an improvised way, he settles on a determined structure to play with, either on canvas or panel. Like a hide and seek game, he erases and redraws this primary structure with no specific goal, sometimes sanding the surface so the under-layered structure is brought partially to the front. “I sense the work is done when I am surprised by it. Lately I’ve been working with oil, exploring a looser way of playing with color with the intentional desire to lose some precision and gain a different vibration in the work.”
Studying architecture for Cloutier was the perfect opportunity to conciliate his need for creativity with the scientific side of his personality. He went back to school to get a BFA and an MFA with the intention of being a professional artist. “I am a late bloomer for my professional entrance in the art world. I’ve dedicated myself to painting for 20 years now, sharing some of my time teaching at Laval University School of Architecture.”
Today Cloutier works in a studio in Québec that is an unoccupied apartment, two doors away from where he lives. The studio is filled with light, plants and his colorful blown glass vase collection. “I work alone, listen to music and read in my studio. From time to time I have some artist friends come in to comment on my work. And I always have my dachshund, Margaret, in the studio. I just can’t imagine working without her,” he said.
Influenced and inspired by Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, and Terry Winters, Cloutier is today represented by a number of galleries in Canada and the U.S, including West Branch. His work has been shown in Montreal, Toronto, France, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and is held in private collections in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities in the U.S. and Europe.
In 2013, Richard Cloutier won the Second Prize of the Québec City Art Works Competition in the Professional Artists category, and had a solo exhibition at the Galerie Bernard in Montréal. “The feeling that people believe in my work is a fundamental motivation to keep me going.”