Born in Granby, Charles Daudelin took Paul-Émile Borduas’s advice to move to Montréal, where he took courses at the École du meuble from 1939 to 1943. Elected a member of the Contemporary Arts Society in 1941, he lived in New York and then in Paris, where he attended Fernand Léger’s studio. Teaching at the École des beaux arts de Montréal, Daudelin created the “integrated art” section there in 1963. Among his most prestigious accomplishments in integration art are the altarpiece in the Sacred Heart chapel at the Notre-Dame basilica and the sculpture-fountain Embâcle at Place du Québec in Paris.
This piece, installed at the entrance of the building housing the second and third cycles at École Léonard-De Vinci, is a relief in cast aluminum inlaid with coloured glass. The sculptor worked on both sides of the piece, making it visible both inside and outside the building. It was produced when modern architect Jean-Louis Lalonde asked him to create two artworks for the school he was designing. This artist-architect collaboration is a fine example of the art commissioning process of the time, when it was still the architect who asked an artist to create something, since he knew him well and appreciated his aesthetics.
This aluminum work is one of the rare pieces that include both a cross—obligatory for schools that were then part of the Catholic school board—and the name of the school, which at the time honoured Saint Damasus (Damase in French). Inclusion of the cross and the school’s initial name allowed the artwork to also serve as a sign, one in which the aesthetics of all elements was coherent. The piece is also exceptional because this abstract aesthetic, known as lyrical, was rarer for public art at the time than were geometrics. The gestural effort of the artist calls to mind a certain lyricism, deployed with eloquence through the irregularity of the vertical shapes, the design of the cross and the graphics of the letters, in addition to the contrasting textures, both smooth and rough, of the aluminum.