About the artist
For several years, Besner has devoted himself exclusively to painting in his search for an aesthetic that corresponds to his word view. Full of colour and emotion, his paintings have been inspired by his early education in architecture, by the great masters of painting whom he holds as models and by the encounters he has made in the back streets of Montreal. His paintings show a playful yet insistent gaze upon the world which surrounds us.
Technique and Subjects
The urban world
For Besner, the vitality of life is at the heart of the city. The city is the symbol of speed and also of nocturnal effervescence. In many cases, the relationship between the personage and the pictorial space is similar to the relationship between the artist and the city. Although they are closely bound, they never fully take part in the action being depicted. It is this ratio of distance that allows the artist to create and the figures to evolve in an identifiable environment; the shapes that define the urban world are thus outlined. The spectator visualizes the city through the shapes evoked. He can at once recreate the landscape in his own imagination and visually understand the type of environment in which the character evolves.
Besner’s work is often evocative of architectural shapes, but recently the architecture has become a subject of its own. The inherent shapes of his art allow the artist the possibility to depict a fantasy vision of the city and its characters. Although the city is first and foremost an invention of the artist, it is often inspired by the formal architecture characteristic of medieval cities. The crosses, arches, arched windows and even towers are all part of what is recognizable from the medieval era. They sometimes give the impression of a cathedral. The reference to the Middle Ages is underlined by a perspective in which shapes are juxtaposed rather than presented in full spatial depth. The building-up or accumulation of structures creates tension in the image, which cannot be read in a linear perspective. The painter combines a certain treatment of perspective and the artistic vocabulary of a period in time.
The mask is also the symbol of the theatre. Characters take on a new identity to amuse and seduce the spectators. Besner’s character, which is the expression of the ephemeral in life, is rarely melancholy. The character is active, as a thinking being, or one that amuses. Although the character may sometimes appear as a figure plucked straight from the circus, it also represents figures we might meet at a highly formal reception. Besner’s characters enjoy unraveling themselves in front of us. The character is fully aware of our presence; it watches us, possibly even asking us the same questions which inspired the artist to create…
The facial expression of Besner’s characters is highly accentuated. Even when the face is white and when the traits are barely outlined, his figures burst with character. Their direct or plunging gaze gives us another perspective from which to understand their attitude. Whether the gaze is accentuated by an arched brow or by the size or color of the eyes, each one is different. The cheekbones, pronounced lips and highly held chin are the expression of a state of mind and emotions in a world where meditation and seduction rule.
Besner’s characters are also very strong and most often monumental. They may even become a monument, the ultimate symbol of the remembered passing and celebration of life. Whether they are represented in full length or in bust, these figures are the expression of a greatness, the proportions of which are larger than life.
Motion is another force that is found frequently in Besner’s work. In plastic terms, the artist uses color and patterns to impart mobility to his work. In a painting where a horse is galloping at the speed of a motorized vehicle, the use of vertical colored strips accentuates the impression of speed, thus intensifying the effect of the movement. The spectator is left with the impression of a landscape that goes speeding by. Besner uses different situations, in which the characters interact, alone or in a group, with their environment. For example, a leaping character creates a dynamic thrust or another character poses in his car, looking sideways, thus suggesting an exit on the other side of the painting’s fictional frame. The circle is the ultimate representation of speed. As an elementary shape, the circle is omnipresent in the artist’s work. Whether the character is standing still or in full motion, this repetitive pattern, which may be inserted consciously or not, is at once the image of the perpetual cycle of life and death, the purest element of geometry, the architect’s preferred tool and symbol of speed.
Far from their naturalistic representation, animals are used as a symbolic iconography. For Besner, this figure, which is at once calm and full of rage, illustrates the profound and brutal passions that are at the core of history, mankind and life on earth. Through the animal’s attitude and physiognomy, the artist paints the vitality surrounding him. This vitality takes shape in the city, where violence and pleasure abound. The animal’s nature is an expression of the forces of life.
Besner’s animals also take on the more playful image of creatures from the circus, which in ancient times was a place of combat; in modern times, the circus has become place of games and amusement. In this imaginary universe, duels can be ferocious and leisure can be quite recreational. Besner’s animals are set in a world represented by the performance, ostentation, decoration and the lively colors of the circus.
Color is Besner’s non negotiable plastic element. It is used to differentiate the characters from their space and to establish different planes is this space. Besner treats color with great freedom. Even if it is sometimes delimitated by the lines of a drawing, it is never imprisoned, because it explodes within the drawing. The painting is governed by color. Besner’s pallet includes a slightly chatoyant velvet garnet-red, burgundy and royal mauve, but also bright red and flat grey; his pallet is unlimited. Whether the painter works with red, blue, light green, brown or grey, his color is unruly, either blending in or confronting its neighbor. His works burst with color, as does the world surrounding Besner. The colors are as quantifiable as the colors of the city are innumerable. The painter uses colored vivacity to represent the power of emotion and to depict the atmosphere of an event.
In Besner’s work, drawing is used to imply patterns. Drawings are used to introduce specific architectural signs or other objects in the pictorial decor. The painter completes his settings by adding fine black lines to evoke space or landscapes, a pattern or a new figure. The line drawings also mark movement. Drawing allows the artist to reassert himself through and allows the spectator to gain entry into the artist’s pictorial practice.