Vie des arts (Montreal), Winter 1995, no. 161, p. 67
(Transl. Robert Howse)

«Homme et femme, il les créa »
From July 19 to August 18 1995
Lake Galleries
624 Richmond Street West
Toronto M5V 1Y9
(416) 504-5234

Before dedicating herself to painting, Denyse Goulet followed a tortuous, winding path, more characterized by intellect than color. Ironically, this same journey would constitute the raw material of what she now calls her “fourth career”. Denyse Goulet has finally rediscovered the vocation that served as a form of escapism when she was a young schoolgirl. She fashions a pictorial universe that is at once both fascinating and disturbing, highly communicative, and which studies with subtlety relations between men and women in the workplace. She paints for revenge. The pallet is her chosen weapon.

A native of Quebec City, Denyse Goulet studied law – the legal profession provides fodder for her imagination as a painter – and the German language and literature in Berlin. In the mid-1980s, during the Cold War, she worked at the Canadian embassy in Moscow. That time in her life, which she describes as difficult, led her to participate in drawing sessions in Moscow. Some of her work reflects her experience with living in a totalitarian state. Thus the women in uniform in the canvas entitled EQUAL OPPORTUNITY seem at first glance to be at ease. At the same time, however, this bluish scene reminds one of the Orwellian universe of Margaret Atwood’s novel THE HANDMAID’S TALE. This is what makes the work of Denyse Goulet so powerful and disturbing: a social critique draped in a beautiful and colorful visual universe. In BUSINESS AND THE LAW, two female lawyers are seated side by side, naked, in an elegant meeting room, bathed with light, surrounded by a crowd of impeccably attired male colleagues. The focal point of the meeting is somehow elusive …

The paintings of Denyse Goulet have unusual titles like BRILLIANT FUTURE, CAREER PATH, DEDUCTIBLE EXPENSES. Evocative and sardonic titles that depict the everyday vulgarity, conflict and office politics characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon world. Several women belonging to the post-war generation, pioneers of the feminist movement, and promoting values of self sufficiency, will find themselves in this unusual world where their sisters often appear as victims, but at the same time, occasionally choose – let us be frank – to blend into male colors …

The paintings of Denyse are filled with figures whose facial features are just defined enough to suggest, especially among men, contrived expressions of satisfaction and desire … Hints of expressionism. In WHY JONES?, men dressed in shades of blue and brown are having a drink in a boardroom turned into a bar —  barely hiding mischievous smiles. The figures are generally seen from above, with their backs bent. According to Denyse, body language reveals more than facial expression, and in very complex compositions involving 40 to 50 figures, the face is no longer relevant.

Denyse Goulet creates her pictorial atmosphere through earth tones and shades of blue, alternating often in her more feminine universes – notably in SASSOON and JOY OF BRIDGE – with very vivid, almost childlike colors.

Asked about the personal meaning of this palette extremely rich in emotions, the painter chooses explanations of a theoretical and technical nature. She stresses the importance of color harmony, the need for color balance … Here again, the same dichotomy in Denyse Goulet between the pictorial message and her discourse. Yet everything seems so spontaneous, so urgent in her brush stroke, and so unburdened by aesthetic considerations. The novelty, the great quality of the large canvases created by Denyse Goulet, the subtlety of her artistic language, the strong unifying irreverence of her internal world announce the dawn of an unquestionable talent.


Why Jones?
Oil on canvas, 1993
135 X 120 cm
Courtesy of John Christman
Photo: Thomas Mann