Don't assume the subdued palette – mainly blues, browns, grays and deep yellows – in the artwork of Jean-Pierre Pelchat translates into calm and quiet paintings. Far from it. His images are infused with life, his subjects with drama. And sometimes it feels as if something unsettling, destabilizing, is lurking about. Jean-Pierre, who grew up and continues to live in Chisasibi, his mother's community, began creating art as a young boy after his older brother showed him his drawings. He went on to study fine arts at CEGEP before pursuing a bachelors degree in art history and studio arts at Concordia University.
Jean-Pierre's art reflects his engagement with a broad range of ideas and emotions. Chief amongst them are big picture subjects like politics and technology, but everyday life also provides an unending source of inspiration. While Jean-Pierre likes to paint and draw, his preferred medium is water-colour. “Watercolour is more of a challenge,” he explained , “because once the paint is on the canvas, you can't change it.”
Jean-Pierre's training in art history exposed him to myriad artists, style and techniques, many of which he employs in his own work. While some examples of his work are presented here, to appreciate the scope of his work it is best to go to: reteps38.tripod.com
In his view, certain interests and concerns are best expressed by specific styles and techniques: Collage lends itself well to political protest as illustrated by the art of the great First Nations artists, Carl Beam and Jane Ash Poitras. Walking in their footsteps, Jean-Pierre has embraced collage to express his anger about land claims agreements and hydro-electric projects. Living in Chisasibi, neither subject is far away. And, as in his Exploitation series, he questions our dependence on technology by employing a style reminiscent of the Dadaists, who, in disturbing images created almost 100 years ago, were reacting against the glorification of the machine.
In his treatment of the everyday, of the commonplace, Jean-Pierre finds inspiration in two sources, surrealism and hyper-realism, which, while so different stylistically, have a common thread: Something is always out of place, often disturbingly so: In the Margins of Reality series, a woman sleeps peacefully – well, maybe not – with a hammer at hand (why?); three people sit at a table awaiting a fourth, beside whose place rests a human skull (what's a skull doing there?); and on it goes.
With their swirling, agitated skies, Jean-Pierre's wildlife paintings are equally dramatic: These are not representations of an idealized nature, bucolic and benign. Rather, the wild, dark skies looming over sombre days suggest potential conflict, conflict that is inextricably part of nature either because of the weather, or the survival requirements of different species, or because of the intrusion of man into the habitat of animals (see The Confrontation in the Wildlife series).
In contrast are Jean-Pierre's landscape paintings, which almost look as if they were painted by a different person. Bright and cheerful, they were done when the artist was in a different mood. “They were done out of pure pleasure, pure joy,” explained the artist.
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