Bright acrylic colors, precise abstract shapes and three-dimensional textures adorn the walls of Burke Gallery in Myers Fine Arts, as Quebec artist Patrice Charbonneau brings his artwork to the Plattsburgh State Art Museum.

PSUC Interim Museum Director Karen Blough first discovered Charbonneau through Jacqueline Hérbert Stoneberger, former PSUC director of foundation giving and current gallerist at Beaux-arts des Ameriqués art gallery in Montreal, where Charbonneau is represented.  

Blough said she particularly responded to Charbonneau’s color palette when she decided to offer him a show at the museum. 

“It’s a very variegated palette and at the same extremely harmonious,” Blough said. “You can also see that he builds up a lot of pigment on the surface so they have a quality that almost [makes you] want to touch them.”

The 12 paintings in Charbonneau’s latest collection, titled “Headquarters,” reflect the theme of space as each painting is an arrangement of lines and shapes that outline sites, places, landscapes or interiors. As a graduate architect, Charbonneau is “interested in the way in which individuals represent space, which they inhabit and orient themselves,” according to his portfolio website. 

In partnership with the museum, The Friends of Art Program hosted a private gallery talk and lunch with Charbonneau Monday afternoon in Burke Gallery. About 30 people attended the luncheon and listened to Charbonneau speak briefly about his work. 

In his speech, Charbonneau said the exhibit is a narrative on the subject of work places, their respective service areas and the surrounding environment in and around Montreal and the region along the St. Lawrence River, where he grew up in a working-class environment. 

“Despite the fact that they are generally rather banal and messy places, I still find them interesting and beautiful because they are genuine, and they represent the vitality of contemporary life,” Charbonneau said at the event.

Charbonneau selected specific types of sites such as office spaces, store boutiques and industrial buildings he had been in contact with throughout his life.

 “For this exhibition, the auxiliary spaces are becoming the main element of the paintings,” Charbonneau said. “Usually nobody pays attention to these spaces. They are neglected. But in fact, for me, they embodied a lot of our everyday life. They are the real headquarters.”

PSUC Art Professor Peter Russom invited Charbonneau to attend one of his advanced painting classes Tuesday morning. The students in Russom’s Painting 4 class displayed two pieces of artwork each for Charbonneau to view and discuss. 

Russom described Charbonneau’s artistic style as unique, as the works can switch from abstract to non objective, a type of abstract art where the piece has no specific subject, or from representation, where the work is similar to the real subject itself, back to abstraction. 

“He’s a very versatile painter and a very elegant painter,” Russom said. “[The paintings are] very visual, and there’s an illusion to the paintings. A lot of painters who are more abstract painters, their space is a shallower space. His space is a combination of spaces. They’re different one to the other.”

Russom said Charbonneau’s abstraction creates a strong illusion in his art, making the viewer feel as if they could reach out and touch the painting.

“The texture actually supports the illusion,” Russom said. “He creates levels of space.”

For art students, Russom said having a second opinion from a painter outside the college is a beneficial learning experience. 

“It’s always good to have a second pair of eyes on your work because their first response is often the best response,” Russom said. “Your eye and your mind are connecting, and I know he’ll do that with our students.” 

When speaking to the art students, Charbonneau talked about his experience with painting landscapes and asked them questions about what they hope viewers feel or take away from their work on display.

“If you go to an art gallery or a museum, when it’s on the wall at the right height, there’s this sort of meeting with you and the object on the wall,” Charbonneau said. “Once you experience this sort of encounter, you never forget it.”

“Headquarters” is displayed in Burke Gallery Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m. until March 15. A free and open-to-the-public reception to meet the artist will be held on Feb. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. in Burke Gallery. 

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