GATINEAU | JANUARY 2022
According to his words, José Guénette struggles to claim the title of artist. Instead, he sees himself as someone who does creation. Having left the field of construction to focus more on his passion, this « designer » makes a point of thinking outside the box and bringing something new to the world of art.
Originally from Mont-Laurier, José Guénette studied social work in the Outaouais and worked in this field for three years. He then moved on to the field of masonry, in which he operated his own business. However, art has always occupied an important place in his life. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that he became a professional artist. “ It’s a passion that has been with me for a long time. I have touched on several styles, such as landscape, impressionism, cubism, and the nude. At one point, I decided to mix all that I had learned artistically. I had made a background out of wooden slats and on top of the abstraction. It was from there that I thought I had something interesting to present. I felt like it was new. ”
Represented by Galerie St-Laurent + Hill in Ottawa, he admits that this world was not his at all at the start. “ However, I got to know him. I was embarrassed to go into galleries because I didn’t see myself as an artist. I still don’t see myself as such, but more as someone who creates. I think the word artist is vast and overused. I have always asked myself several questions. What is it to be an artist? What does it mean? When do you become an artist? I think I partially answered it, but I’m not sure it’s the proper definition! »
A few years ago, a call from Gatineau City for public art caught his attention. “ I think I was there in my journey. I came up with something, and it worked. I made a big mural. It was the first time that I had done something this big. Urban art fascinates me, and I am happy to be part of this movement. ”
After exploring several styles, it was in the figurative that José Guénette found his way. “ I am someone who travels a lot. I pay attention to what’s done in the street. I love public art, old things, history, and the history of art. I pick up some old items and think that I will find them helpful at some point. I had bought some old photos, and one of them was a woman in a big dress and a top hat. I made my first figurative style painting from this one. I think it took me a year to complete it. Once finished, I went to show my painting to my gallery owner. I was a little afraid of his reaction because I suddenly went from abstraction to figurative. He loved it and told me it looked like me anyway. I continued in this direction after that. ”
When creating, the artist is inspired by everything he experiences and sees. “ My brain is full-time in creation mode without necessarily knowing it. I will walk everywhere and look for anything that can be interesting. I like to bring together contrasts, look for something from one world and integrate it into another. ”
He works with many kinds of materials, be they more typical ones like oil paint, spray can, acrylic, pencil, or felt-tip pen. He also uses collage and tapestry that he creates himself. He can use maple veneer as cement and concrete for his sculptures. Moreover, he claims to buy more in shops specializing in construction than those dedicated to art!
On the side
Even though creation takes an important place in his life, José Guénette has not left the working world entirely. He does, in fact, substitute teaching at the elementary level. “ I once had a dream of just making a living from art, but it quickly stopped, and it became a sideline. I had some bad experiences that made me realize it wasn’t easy, even if you work hard and think you have a good record. I prefer to have my full-time job, allowing me to have some artistic freedom. ”
For him, the challenge of an artist today is to always look for something new to present. “ A lot has been done artistically, and images surround us. Experimenting and then finding a way to stand out with your technique and seeing things are essential aspects of creating something unique. The challenge is also to stay honest and continue to believe in what you do. ”
José Guénette is currently preparing a new individual exhibition which should be presented this summer at the Galerie St-Laurent + Hill. “ There will be different characters. I want it to be busty and to surprise people. This is an idea that I have cherished for a long time, and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition. ”