Patrick Thibert -Evolution of Works on Paper 1971-2023

TAP Centre for Creativity, Dundas Street, London Ontario

February 6 – 17, 2024

This exhibition is a unique opportunity to follow a master sculptor as he works with and through ideas that result in fine works on paper. We are able to study his thought process and see how these seminal ideas influenced his large-scale sculptures.

Patrick Thibert is known as a sculptor, but he has always also produced drawings. A selection on view at TAP, in this first exhibition of works on paper, provides a good sense of the variety of approaches he has had over the years. They reflect shifts in his sensibility, from the abstraction of his early student period, to concern with a narrative and image-based work that persisted until 2010. Finally he returned to abstraction. These shifts are evident in the drawings.

“Portrait of the Artist: Homage to Cezanne, series VII”, 1973,lithograph, 24 5/8″h x 32 1/8″w

I confess that one of my favorites from the narrative period is Portrait of the Artist: Homage to Cezanne, Series VII (1993, lithograph). Here Thibert’s modernist roots are evident. His portrait, a side view of his head repeated three times (two facing left and the centre head, right), is presented in dark silhouette and marked in the centre with a blue square, a yellow triangle, and a red circle. In this way, the artist clearly states his allegiance to Modernism, as though this ideal is embedded in his head.

“The Three Sister’s No.3, (study, variation No.1)”, September 2017, pastel powder on Stonehenge paper, 27 12″h x 30 5/8″w

For me, this work also provides insight to the artist’s sense of humour. Yes, of course he is serious about his work, but often I find an underlying tender sensibility. An example of this is The Three Sisters No. 3 (Study, Variation No. 1) of September 2017. This colourful work of pastel powder on Stonehenge paper is all about line – and Thibert’s three daughters. In this depiction, the three sisters are represented by the turquoise lines all tilted to the right. Between the second and third line is a darker, wider vertical in green, referring to the father of the three girls. All the lines seem to hover on a golden surface that is the background of this painting on paper. With the brilliant colours, and the playful tilt of the thin lines, I see the solid ‘father figure’ standing dark and wide among the dancing girls.

“Divergent Harmonies No.1, (version No.2), April 2016, charcoal on Stonehenge paper, 44″h x 44″w

While here I have interpreted The Three Sisters, it is fair to say that the work is really about line, how lines interact and how they relate to background. This is the case in many of Thibert’s works, whether on paper or in large scale scuptures.

With the charcoal-on-paper work, Divergent Harmonies, No. 1 (Version No. 2) of April 2015, we are able to see signs of the sculptor at work. I notice that the tilted vertical hovering in front of a series of dark overlapping triangles seems to have a tangible surface, which differs from the rest of the charcoal drawing.

“Divergent Harmonies No.1, (version No.2), April 2016, charcoal on
Stonehenge paper, 44″h x 44″w – detail

Thibert explains his technique: an oval metal bur is normally used to cut metal with a die grinder that turns at 20,000 revolutions per minute, but for paper he uses the oval bur attached at the end to a long holding tool to gently scrape away at the paper to reveal a coarse surface to apply the charcoal power to the disrupted paper surface.

Here his use of a rough surface clearly reflects his sculptural techniques (where he will work metal surfaces in a similar way). This tilted vertical appears to float in front of a very dark collection of superimposed triangles that in turn hover atop the background. The background is a light veil of charcoal delicately emphasizing the vertical line through what appear to be light strokes of charcoal. This example of Thibert’s work on paper offers a rare opportunity to experience the ways he uses linear design to study visual effects – insights that lead to large-scale sculptural works.

Standing in this exhibition, looking at the works from a distance, I am struck by the variety – how in some cases charcoal drawings are both dark and feathery; how the coloured drawings are brilliant, and how all are about line. How lines are straight and then curve unexpectedly, for instance. Walking towards the back of the space, I find the charcoal studies for sculptures, with notations of measurements and materials. These are fascinating to me because of the precision. It is, after all, important for the artist to work out how the sculptures will fit together and what the materials will be. It is a bird’s-eye view into how the artist thinks about and visualizes sculptural projects.

We are fortunate to have this exhibition of Patrick Thibert’s drawings, which takes us into his process and development. Thank you to TAP and to the artist for making it happen.

Madeline Lennon has written for both national and international arts publications, and is a Professor Emerita, Visual Arts, Western University.

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  1. says: Kim Wilkie

    I am glad I got to read this because I did not get a chance to go to the TAP exhibit, although I did see some of his drawings at a previous exhibition on Dundas Street a few years ago. I do like the reference to his sculpture that makes sense but knowing geometry and shapes comes through in the self portraits. Congratulations Patrick.

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