After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in visual arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1982, Alain Paiement undertook graduate studies in Europe. In 1987, he returned to Montreal to complete a master’s degree in visual arts at UQAM, where he has taught since 2004. The first Québec artist to be invited to show work at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1992, he has been known since the late 1980s for his sculptural, or “plastic” photographic work. Having had works in numerous international exhibitions, he is considered a mainstay of Canadian contemporary photography.
Jour ou nuit inconnue consists of a grouping of ornamental motifs transposed onto 23 glass plates. This artwork is integrated into the lobby of the building, where large picture windows predominate. Aware that his work would enter into dialogue with this environment, the artist selected glass as the main material, and he designed the dimensions and composition of the grouping taking account of the alternating arrangement of the adjacent windows. The decorative motifs, inspired by an amalgam of geometric patterns from different cultures, form a variety of visual abstractions. In playing with a zoom-in effect and superimposed planes, the artist creates a new repertoire of original motifs.
“The recurrences, symmetries and asymmetries, and various permutations that [the motifs] present are also thought in relation to certain computer graphics operations. As they overlap, they create an increasingly random network whose graphic evolution might evoke crystals, an organic or fractal growth, or the palimpsest or the printed map of an improbable network,” Paiement explained (presentation portfolio, 1998, our translation).
Although outside of the main themes of Paiement’s practice in this period, this abstract work, through the optical plays that compose it, refers to the fragmentation and distortion techniques that the artist developed in his photomontages.