Unauthorized and playful portrait painting of Quebec writer Réjean Ducharme

Réjean Ducharme, oil on linen, 48X42 inches, 2018. Photo : Guy L’Heureux

Réjean Ducharme: Capturing a Desire for Anonymity 

How does one paint the portrait of a man who, like Réjean Ducharme, fled the public eye as if his life depended on it? 


Indeed, he always refused requests for interviews and not once made a public appearance.

We have but two photos of him in circulation.

The book cover of L'Avalée des avalés by
A photo of Réjean Ducharme standing in the snow with his two dogs

How, then, to represent this desire for anonymity that seems to be the antithesis of portraiture?

Ducharme moved me to answer this question, or rather, to rise to the challenge. That is to say: he gave me the opportunity to paint my first anti-portrait.

I believe Réjean Ducharme would have understood and approved of my endeavour. This man forever barricaded in childhood, with his linguistic folly, his musical acrobatics with words—this man would have understood.

Two works from artist Mathieu Laca displayed in the THompson Landry Gallery

My use of accidental framing—borrowed from photography—might have made him smile, as if the anti-portrait had been painted without his knowledge and against his will. Who knows? He might have smiled instead at being relegated to the margins, truncated and repulsed like this fragment of drawing sticking out of his head that seems taken from his Le Lactume.

Yes: Réjean Ducharme would have smiled. He knew that life is a juggling game.

This work is available at the Thompson Landry Gallery in Toronto.

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