When Jean-Luc Godard’s film À bout de souffle (Breathless) was released in 1960, it created an international sensation, launching what is now known as the French New Wave. Among those captivated by its spontaneous action and innovative camera work was a young student at the University of British Columbia, Ian Wallace, who saw the film in its initial release.
Inspired by Godard and other avant-garde directors of the day, Wallace considered becoming a filmmaker, even applying to the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. While his eventual career direction steered toward painting rather than film, his fascination with Godard has never waned. The year 2010 marks the 80th birthday of director Jean-Luc Godard, as well as the 50th anniversary of the release of Breathless. In recognition of these milestones, an international symposium will be presented at the University of Regina and MacKenzie Art Gallery from September 16 to 18 under the title Son Image: the Legacies of Jean-Luc Godard.
As a key partner in this celebration, the MacKenzie is pleased to present an exhibition of recent paintings by Ian Wallace, notable member of the “Vancouver School” of photo-based art and recipient of the 2009 Molson Prize for the Arts. For this exhibition, Wallace will present six new paintings and a number of studies from the series Masculin/Féminin, titled after the Godard film of the same name.
The paintings, which are based on the Godard films Masculin/Féminin (1966) and Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963), employ collaged still images and subtitles that evoke the estrangement and longing between male and female leads. Studies for the paintings provide further evidence of Wallace’s cut and collage process, a technique analogous to the “jump cuts” of Godard’s early films.
Complementing the exhibition will be the screening of a seldom-seen Godard video, Soft and Hard (1985), an autobiographical film which he co-directed with his wife and fellow filmmaker, Anne-Marie Miéville. Just as Wallace’s paintings contemplate the state of male-female relations as refracted through cinema, this video takes up “the sexual economy of image making” through the couple’s reflection on their personal histories of filmmaking and the current state of image production and reception. In a particularly revealing moment, a tennis-racket-swinging Godard quips, “I’m making pictures instead of children,” while Miéville irons his shirts.
The juxtaposition of painter and director in this exhibition and screening points to a set of shared strategies and concerns. The questioning of masculinity and gender roles initiated by Godard in the 1960s is picked up and renewed by both artists with an analysis that is no less pertinent than it was fifty years ago.
Timothy Long, Head Curator