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A Spiritual Journey : Gaston Petit

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 New to Q's collection is French-Canadian painter Father Gaston Petit who is a Dominican priest from Shawinigan, Quebec. Since 1966, Petit has been stationed in Tokyo, Japan, where he practices as a painter, a sculptor, a printmaker, and a stained glass designer. While not having set out to become an artist, it was through his studies and exposure to theology and philosophy that Petit found his creative self.

After demonstrating his extraordinary skill in the design and ornamentation of several chapels and churches in Japan, Petit was given permission by the Clergy to devote himself to sacred art. With no formal artistic training, he was sent to Europe to study the many exquisite churches of France, Germany, and Belgium. He also took advantage of visits to Cambodia, Thailand, India, Afghanistan, and Iran to soak in the Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures.

Petit’s personal artistic practice evolved from his vocation to build places of worship. His cross-cultural experiences play a prominent role in his work, which he sees as a way to explore the concept of being and its relationship with divinity. Nourished by the evocation of religious symbols, both spiritual and philosophical, Petit mixes references from his Catholic priesthood, as well as elements of Taoist, Buddhist, and Hindu religions. Although his stylistic influences fall within fauvism and surrealism, Petit's own approach to art is a medieval one, in which art serves as part of ritual rather than for static viewing.

As an artist, Petit says “Conscious of it or not, an artist is pushed by the desire to leave something to humanity,” but as a priest he adds “The true artist aims at participating, by analogy, in God’s power of creation. He dresses himself in the Creator’s vestments. 

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