Nicolas Party: L’heure mauve
A rising star on the international scene, Nicolas Party is known for his meticulously composed paintings, his painted sculptures and his installations drenched in saturated colours. From February 12 to October 16, 2022, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is presenting Party’s first solo exhibition in Canada. Through over 100 works and a series of monumental frescos realized in situ, the Swiss-born artist unveils a dreamlike exhibition themed on nature. The Museum’s galleries provide the canvas onto which this visual artist and muralist – cum curator and exhibition designer – expresses the full range of his art.
Drawing on his vast knowledge of art history, Party weaves a singular and profound oeuvre that both exalts pictorial conventions and challenges true-to-nature representations in favour of an original, phantasmagorical exploration of colour and shape. Inspired by René Magritte, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso and Félix Vallotton, he revisits art’s classic codes and modernizes, among other things, the sottobosco (“underbrush” in Italian), a subgenre of the still life popularized in the 17th century. Moreover, he is one of the rare contemporary artists whose medium of choice is pastels.
Named after the iconic painting Mauve Twilight by Canadian Symbolist Ozias Leduc, found in the MMFA’s collection, the exhibition L’heure mauve displays Party’s poetic imagination in the Museum’s oldest galleries. “L’heure mauve,” (“mauve twilight”) – that fleeting moment when the fading light casts purple hues over the landscape – resonates powerfully with the artist, who sees in it an aura of mystery and beauty. From gallery to gallery, the exhibition proposes a celebratory as well as solemn meditation on nature, its representation in art and its future.
L’heure mauve brings together watercolours, pastels and sculptures – giant heads, busts and headless bodies – by Party, including about 20 recent works yet to be exhibited. The landscapes, portraits and still lifes, at once fantastical and subtle, illustrate the complex and often inextricable ties that bind humans to nature. These creations combining figurative and Surrealist genres are set against some 50 works from the MMFA’s wide-ranging collection. Painstakingly chosen by the artist, they include paintings by Gustave Courbet, Ferdinand Hodler, Henri Fantin-Latour, Nicolas Poussin, Otto Dix and Lawren S. Harris. In addition, various chairs from the Museum’s Decorative Arts and Design Collection are arranged facing the walls, evoking the ghostlike presence of invisible spectators.
The whole is completed with temporary murals created in oil pastels, covering 180 m2 of wall space in four of the eight galleries in the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion. Together, the works and the setting of this large-scale exhibition weave a both moving and hopeful story about the fate of the natural world.