Charles Daudelin – sculptor

His art in public places

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Photo: Jerry

Charles Daudelin - Eclatement II

The present celebration of Charles Daudelin's work by the Musée des beaux-arts du Québec brought to mind the necessity to point out some of his monumental sculptures that have become integral parts of the city's urban environment over the last 20 years. It may be interesting to mention that, if in deed sculpture is an age old tradition in the Province, the Church was the primary if not the only sponsor.

It is only around the end of the 19th century that government buildings and public squares started to display effigies of historical figures, traditional and legendary characters. Ultimately, art in public places really developed following the law passed in 1973 by the provincial government, requiring that 1% of the cost of public building projects be attributed to works of art. In the years that followed, the private sector got involved and, since its 400th anniversary celebrations, Quebec has become one of the cities with the most public art works.

Charles Daudelin was one of the pioneers of this movement aiming at integrating man and his culture into the environment through art. His career began in the 1940's with a strong influence of modern European artists of the first half of the century. In the 1960's sculpture had become his dominant mean of expression. His interest in the decorative art led him to create works for the theatre. Through these projects he began appreciating the relation between art and space which in turn led him to consider making art for public places in several cities in Canada and in France where his Embacle (1984) was commissioned for the Place du Québec in Paris. His first work commissioned for the city is the sculpture 1+1=1 (1996) that can be seen on the esplanade of the Marie-Guyard building along Rene-Leveque Boulevard. The use of geometric form is obviously a result of the artist's interest in cubism, a movement that is very influential in his early paintings. I have always been fascinated by the title of this piece in which two cubes are joined together in an attempt to become one.

I finally understood its meaning when I had the privilege of meeting Louise Daudelin, his wife, at the inauguration of the space dedicated to his work at the Musée. His other work created for the city is his monumental fountain Eclatement II (1998) that embellishes the square in front of the train station (Gare du Palais). In this magnificent piece Daudelin displays in interest in the integration of the elements to his work. In deed, this fountain project allowed him to make of water the central and most important element. It brings movement to the piece and by its strength seems to burst open the sheets of Corten steel, upon which water is also projected from the sides. Broken lines are predominant in the arrangement of these steel plates, indicating once again the interest in geometry inherited from the cubist movement. Next time you pass by these sculptures, do stop to admire them and, to know more about the artist, do visit the exhibition dedicated to the work of this pioneer of modern art in Canada at the Musée des beaux-arts du Québec. The exhibition will then go on a tour of the province until 2011.