Our latest Artist You Need To Know may be known to you already, alternately as Claude Breeze but also as cHebert (a name he’s employed since 1998). He is primarily known as a figurative painter, creating images and scenes that have qualities that are both evocative and unnerving. Breeze attended the Regina College of Art, University of Saskatchewan, graduating in 1958. A teacher and strong influence on him was Ernest Linder, whose drawings and paintings helped to shift the idea of artmaking in Saskatchewan, and whose impact can be seen in Breeze’s work. A Professor Emeritus at York University (he taught there from 1976 to 2003), Breeze has also taught at the University of Calgary, Emily Carr School of Art (Vancouver), Simon Fraser University (Vancouver), The Banff Center School of Fine Arts and was the Artist in Residence at the the University of Western Ontario (London, ON, 1972 – 75). He is also a member of the RCA (Royal Canadian Academy of Arts).
Several bodies of work by Breeze have garnered significant praise and have encompassed a variety of influences and styles: his first solo exhibition in Vancouver (titled Lovers in a Landscape) evoked comparisons to the work of British painter Francis Bacon, with Breeze’s lacerated, expressionist and unnerving figures and scenes. The first issue of arts/canada (later to become Canadian Art Magazine) offered a feature on his work His Sunday Afternoon, by editor Barry Lord (1965). Later, Breeze would expand his ideas to include landscape and abstraction, but often in symbolic ways, flowing back and forth between figurative and a ‘landscape of signs.’ In the 1980s and 1990s, Breeze was an early advocate of computer technology in his image making
While his work is in many public, corporate and private collections, Breeze has also exhibited in numerous solo and group shows, internationally (North America, Europe and China, to offer an impressive overview). However, Breeze has also produced works in the public sphere; the most notable is Spacing… Aerial Highways, a 300-foot ceramic tile mural at Lawrence West subway station in Toronto.
In 1998, Breeze began using the alias of cHebert (works on his site are arranged in this manner). His words on this decision: “Although this is one of my given names its use is not meant to mislead or confuse people in thinking I am someone else, I am still the same artist.The decision to use this name, and the possible confusion that could result, was not flippant. I have various reasons. However, I could explain that it is to indicate and reinforce a new range of work which has been, basically, photo based digital prints along with a series of acrylic paintings. This has given me a feeling of renewed energy free from yesterday’s past. I had felt for some time that my artistic endeavors were just being judged historically, as in a scrapbook. Therefore, any new ongoing works that did not fit into that norm was overlooked. Although this gesture on my part will make little difference to the professional in the art world, it is satisfying to me.” Significant exhibitions as cHebert have been mounted at the Propeller Center for the Visual Arts and Praxis Gallery (both Toronto).
Claude Breeze / cHebert’s site is extensive, and offers many images of his diverse works, divided by decade, and he has often worked in series, where ‘the content influences the way they are executed. His art could have disturbing visual qualities when confronted by a viewer.’ (from his biography) He continues to produce art work, with exhibitions in the last few years which can be found at his own site.