Honorary Degree Citation - Guido Molinari*

by Christopher Jackson, June 2004

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Mr. Guy Molinari, son of the late Mr. Guido Molinari, Founding director of ACTUELLE Editions d'Art, Former instructor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University.

"There is no such thing as colour, there are only colour harmonies. A given colour exists only in its shape and dimensions and in its correlation with other colours."

This is something you may have heard if you had been fortunate enough to attend one of the late Guido Molinari's inspiring painting classes at Concordia. This "enfant terrible" of Canadian abstract painting, this remarkably giving man, this vibrant and entertaining teacher, was one of the original members of the small group of artists who were the foundation of our Faculty of Fine Arts. He taught here for 27 years, until his retirement in 1997.

Guido Molinari was born in Montreal in 1933. His father played with the Montreal Symphony, and his mother was the daughter of a sculptor. He began painting when he was thirteen years old. He enrolled at the School of the Art Association of Montreal, studying under Marian Scott and Gordon Webber. A year later he contracted tuberculosis. While he was recovering he studied the existentialist authors who would help shape his approach to painting: Sartre, Camus, Piaget and Nietzsche.

Guido never finished his formal art training, but instead struck out on his own. Along with the art of fellow-Montrealer Claude Tousignant, his oeuvre would establish a completely new direction for Canadian painting. His journey as an artist was eclectic, passionate and unendingly original. In the early '50's he experimented with painting blindfolded or in the dark. In 1956, following his shock at seeing his first Mondrian canvas, at New York's Museum of Modern Art, he created his magisterial series of Black and White paintings. These were his first mature attempts to reconcile subjectivity of creation with paintings as autonomous objects bearing no reference to the exterior world. Much admired though these paintings were (and are), Guido is probably best-known for the series of Stripe Paintings that dominated his work during the 1960s. In these works each consisting solely of identically-sized and brightly-coloured stripes - painting was transformed into fields of dynamic organization that come alive only through each viewer's subjective, perceptual engagement with them. From the late 1960s onwards he increasingly refined his work, leading up to the somber Quantificateur series of the late 1970s and, at the time of his death, the visually playful but intellectually sophisticated Checkerboard paintings.

Guido Molinari received many awards and distinctions over the course of his fifty-year career, including the prestigious David Bright Prize at the Venice Bienniale, and the Prix Paul-Emile Borduas for his contribution to art in Quebec. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971. His work has been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally. It can be found in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was truly a Canadian original and a master of his medium.

During his vibrant life Guido affected innumerable students, colleagues and artists of other media with his eloquent meditations on their work. Whether you were an established artist, or a student taking your first steps into the world of painting, he would discuss your work with energetic enthusiasm. As a result of this detailed attention, students gained confidence in their own modes of self-expression. Guido had great gifts as a teacher and, with them, he helped build Concordia's Fine Art Program and establish it as a premiere faculty in Canada.

In 1958 Guido. Molinari married Fernande St-Martin, a leading Quebec art theorist, journalist and writer and, later, director of the Musée d'art contemporain. They had two children, a son and a daughter.

Guido Molinari's spirit lives on through his art and through the work of the students he inspired. His dedication to his medium lives on through the Faculty he helped build here at Concordia.

We were immeasurably better for having known him, and today we honour his life and memory with this honorary degree.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honor to present to you Mr. Guy Molinari, so that you may confer upon him, in the place of his father, the late Guido Molinari, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased