By Diane Brabant
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. Besner has also been profoundly marked by the ravages of the body as well as by that which in the body is the most striking as an object of contemplation and reflection. Besner creates characters that bear traces of the past, who sometimes seem to be mere shadows of themselves, yet who confront their destiny to the very end. Such characters, worthy of fable, are often inspired by some of the characters of Otto Dix and Nicolas de Crécy, the comic book author, to mention just these two. His characters progress towards the future, like all human beings. They are creatures who are torn apart and gnawed by hope …
Besner was born in 1965 in North Lancaster, Ontario. He completed his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Montreal in 1992. He began his studies in architecture at Algonquin College in Ottawa, a few years prior to beginning his B.A. This early education allowed him to focus his thoughts on the nature of the city and its components: its profoundly human structure, the tradition that must be taken into account prior to any attempt at urban development, and the factors which are essential for survival in all urban and cultural contexts. His years at university allowed him to develop a critical sense and to define his world view focused on the human, while maintaining a concern for the past, the present and the future. This education ultimately led to the discovery of his true passion, painting. It also provided him with the tools that will help him transform his formal learning into a pictorial aesthetic of figure and space, through the eyes of an artist, semi-realist and semi-fiction.
Besner’s creative work is based on a mixed technique on canvas. He has a preference for oil sticks and their rich palette of colours as well as acrylic paint, structural mortar, china marker and aerosol paint. In addition to these materials, he uses a technique of application by the fingers and scraping of the canvas.
Besner met Michael Mensi in 1996, of the Mensi & Rioux artist-painter agency, who proposed that they begin to work in a joint effort. As a result of this commitment, several events happened, including the event-exhibit, La démesure des convoités, November 9, 2004, at the CDP Capital Centre (1000, place Jean-Paul-Riopelle in Montreal), as well as the publication of two books of the artist: La démesure des convoités. Dominic Besner (2000-2004) and Dominic Besner (1993-2000).
In January 2007, Besner was invited to exhibit his most recent work at La Villa des Arts Museum in Casablanca (Morocco) which work inspired three Moroccan designers (Si Mohamed Lakhdar, Karim Tassi and Albert Oiknine) who created a Moroccan caftan inspired by the painting of the artist. The exhibit entitled “Au fil de l’Art” developed into a travelling exhibit that inspired many artists and designers to explore new areas of creation based on the work by Besner. The exhibit was shown in Rabat (Morocco), Montreal, Calgary and Toronto (Canada).
It would be difficult to count all the work that Dominic Besner has actively collaborated in, but we should mention Besner’s participation in the artistic event, the Art of Giving, which brought together a series of young artists who took part in a fund raising activity for various works of charity, organized by the Saatchi Gallery in London (United Kingdom), in the month of October 2010. Besner also participated in a group exhibition at the Museo de Las Artes of the Universidad of Guadalajara (Mexico), which took place from November 29, 2003, through to January 30, 2004. He also joined with Pierre Bündock and François Arsenault (with the participation of the Cirque du Soleil in partnership with Mensi & Rioux) for a short film ― a portrait of Besner, the Artist, and the unveiling of a 92 feet by 7 feet fresco, consisting of painting and stained glass. This work was created specifically for the head office of the Cirque du Soleil ― entitled La Mécanique des villes, this work was presented at the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) in March 2008.
In fact, there were two “excessively monumental” works that coincided to form a single constellation.
The event-exhibition, La Démesure des convoités (2004), as indicated by the title, set on stage larger than life figures ― the faces of men and of beasts, of animals, of women and even of the city, the mother and the matrix of all these highly colourful characters. The grandeur of the work was displayed not only in the excessive dimensions of the paintings, but also by the wide use of metaphors to bring the characters to life. Besner does not in any way seek to reproduce the real world; the faces he depicts go beyond the figurative to suggest the juxtaposition of the various depths of the imagination, which become an integral part of the characters being represented, even for figures that have no face to speak of.
And, Mora (at the same time woman, mother and death) was created in 2010-2011 as the illustration of an enchanting urban tale written under the same title by D. Besner. This exhibition included 36 monumental works by the artist ― works of pure enchantment from an undefined time ―, the event brought together distinguished interpreters from various disciplines, who each in their own way provided an eloquent expression of various scenes from the tale. Various performers from the fields of music, dance, gymnastic, martial arts and video participated in the interpretation of this work. The artists and the invited guests were brought together to take part in the universe of the imagination of Dominic Bester and witnessed firsthand the spellbinding enchantment that was cast upon the audience and multiple waves. Once upon a time… on a magic autumn night was heard the sovereign voice borne by Diane Dufresne, dressed by Mother Midnight, who held hypnotic vigil…
November 2010 gave the solo exhibition entitled Hundred Words consisting of 30 Cyclopean size paintings, inspired by 100 words (“wordless”) chosen by the artist to explore the harmonies/dissonances of language and images. This exhibition made it possible to shed light on the predilection that D. Besner enjoys with both language and images. Previous to this date, he took part in the group exhibition, Western China International Art Biennale, in Yinchuan (China), in the month of September 2010, and in the prestigious Universal Exhibition of Shanghai from May 1st through to October 31 of the same year. Besner will return to China in the month of November 2013 to present an individual exhibition entitled Immortalis at the Museum of Suzhou. This will coincide with an impressive exhibition to take place on the North American continent, entitled Humani Ex Machina, at the Thompson Landry Gallery in Toronto, at which will be shown 25 recent works by Besner.
In recent years, Besner has shown greater interest in writing, in stained glass, in engraving and in sculpture. He recently gave up his tiny but welcoming studio on the Plateau-Mont-Royal for a very large sun-filled space in the industrial section of Montreal. This will put an end to the close intimacy he enjoyed with the objects of his creation, which was imposed by the restraining limits of his work place. Using both the carnal and the immaterial resources available to him, he will slowly but surely tame the new work space into which he has been thrust. Fortunately, for D. Besner renewal is an integral part of his modus vivendi.