– Melissa Daly-Buajitti

Gatineau-based artist, Etienne Gelinas, is a man immersed in an ambivalent world of architecture, mathematical iconography, (de)codification, and Early Modern Existentialism.

His works immediately call to mind Leonardo DaVinci’s Virtuvian Man – “scientifically”-precise anatomy in harmony with measuredly-straight lines, and compass-drawn circles, scattered with algebraic scribbles denoting the musings of intangible genius.

If The Canon of Proportions demonstrated Man’s figure to be the guiding principal of architecture, Gelinas sees architecture as one of many measures in which “mankind’s living space and style are standardized.” In his view, we currently live in a state of paradox as said standardization sits at odds with “the valorization of individualism in our society.” He seeks to confront this tension through his artwork. His described approach is seemingly zen:

I strive to make the pictorial and scientific worlds coexist in a single space. This is my way of denouncing society as an overly structured and conformist environment, bound by protocol and in which the notion of intuition and tailored, case-by-case approaches have lost their practice.

The call for unity is at first touching: rather than looking to dominate the forms suppressing our autonomy, Gelinas seeks reconciliation. Upon consideration, the reconciliation begins to exude an uneasy violence. Take, for example, the way in which he broaches this coexistence by using geometry as a symbolic language. In particular, consider his elaboration around the circle’s function:

The circle contributes to the notion of space and depth by offering, through perspective, a tunnel effect. The circle within the circle becomes a symbol of clans, targets and objectives, but even more so a symbol of perfection – engraved, encrusted, even scarified in an imperfect world.

Taken in this way, Gelinas’ diagrams burst with a sense of cultural dissonance. Any prospect of harmony between the pictorial and scientific is tainted by cluttering projections of fearful symmetry in the modern world.

– Melissa Daly-Buajitti