Elective Affinities

[Summer 2023]

By Jacques Doyon

Theatres of the Intimate, the major exhibition of Evergon’s work at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, mea- sures the scope of an approach that celebrates the gay body and homosexual desire. Throughout his body of work, Evergon deploys a highly personal theatre of intimate relationships, desires, and impulses that an entire community values. Constant experimentation with the photographic medium, plays on persona, and a reinterpretation of the canons of art history are combined in an aesthetic that presents an other lived experience and gaze. Large allegorical tableaux, self-portraits, landscapes, collages of fragments and images, and striking portrayals of the artist’s mother construct a phantasmagorical universe that highlights and explores all the nuances and rich- ness of gay culture.

Raymonde April has always photographed her friends and family as part of her daily activities, and she has always produced a wealth of images. The exhibition Traversée, presented at 1700 La Poste, offers an opportunity to look back at the very beginning of her career, when the premises of an aesthetic engagement that have continued throughout her life were established. Viewers are immersed in a multitude of never-seen-before images that relate early aesthetic research, new friendships, first engagements based on deep affinities, and positionings that were to determine her artistic direction. The studio, domestic scenes, and landscapes serve as back- grounds for an aesthetic and relational journey that has taken April from Rivière-du-Loup to Mumbai, via Quebec City, Montreal, and many other places.

In two diametrically opposed works, The Animal Seems to Be Moving and , Michèle Pearson Clarke performs her vulnerability with regard to assuming a masculinity that wants to emerge and show itself in the light of day. Her series of large self-portraits plays on this identity in a way that is both affirmative and playful. Signs of femininity and masculinity are juxtaposed, testifying to the ambiguity and private discord that must be faced within the self. In one work, the profound impulses of animality are deconstructed in an acerbic way. In the other, in contrast, choral harmony allows her to reflect on her own reality, blunt her vulnerability, and develop the strength to hear her own voice.

The intimate is above all the seat of self-definition – an existential issue that moves between self and self. It is where one explores and defines how one will relate to the world and the values upon which the self will be built. Such discovery and rooting of identity, however, cannot occur except in relation with some and in opposition to others. Identity construction is grounded in encounters, based on elective affinities, with human beings who will strengthen one’s private convictions. Its corollary is difference: what one is not, the norm that one rejects, the otherness that one claims, the distance that one takes from certain ways of life. The other exists in its own right, but it does not resonate in our private world. All of this is at play in these aesthetics of the intimate: the power to de ne
a voice, a presence, and to speak it out loud. Translated by Käthe Roth

[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 123 – THE POWER OF INTIMACY ]
[ Complete article, in digital version, available here: Elective Affinities ]