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Archival Clip – [Interview with the painter Jean Paul Riopelle in 1968] – I always hope that the painting I do is the best. Which means that it’s the most beautiful, it’s the best, it’s the final one. When I finish it, I realize that it still resembles the one that preceded it and final. Right, not? I start another one.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — What you heard is the voice of the Quebec artist Jean Paul Riopelle. Here he is talking to Fernand Séguin on Radio-Canada in 1968, on the diversity of his work. He was largely recognized at that time. Nobody could imagine the impact of his work on Canadian art history and internationally.
Welcome to the Canadian Time Machine, a podcast that explores significant events in our country’s history. Presented by the Government of Canada and created by The Walrus Lab. My name is Ariane-Li Simard-Côté.
This episode is a brief overview of Jean Paul Riopelle’s career on his 100th anniversary of birth, celebrated by the Riopelle Foundation and a great number of partners as part of a vast program of celebrations in 2023 across Canada and internationally.
Born in Montreal on October the 7th, 1923, Riopelle is one of the most important Canadian artists in the 20th century. Prolific painter and sculptor, his work covers a wide range of styles and techniques. In his first works, while he was a student, nature was omniscient. In his nearly six-decade career, his style will evolve.
His profound respect for nature, its fauna and flora, and the vast Canadian landscapes inspired many of his art pieces. It is estimated that Riopelle created more than 7000 pieces of work throughout his career. Mixing paint, sculpture, engraving and numbers of techniques, Jean Paul Riopelle’s catalog, managed by his daughter Yseult Riopel, is the ultimate reference to his work.
It represents a major project of research and is intended as a fundamental tool to help understanding and appreciating Riopelle’s work. Since 1945, more than 200 solo and group exhibitions have been devoted to his work. To these, we can add the most recent exhibitions presented as part of the centenary celebrations of Riopelle’s birth throughout 2023.
We can cite the retrospective exhibition of the National Gallery of Canada: “Riopelle : crossroads in time”, curated by Sylvie Lacerte. Riopelle’s influence goes beyond his artistic work because he is one of the signatories of the “Refus global”, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023.
“Refus global” is a manifesto signed by 16 young artists from Quebec in 1948, including Paul-Émile Borduas who wrote the eponymous text with the same name. This document challenges cultural and religious norms taking place in Quebec in the years it was published. It is opposed to the Roman Catholic Church’s power on almost every aspect of life in Quebec. Some say this manifesto was one of the key elements to bring Quebec into a more modern culture that led the province to the Quiet Revolution.
On Radio-Canada in 1990, Robert Guy Scully talked to Riopelle on the subject of being prolific, saying “You said that after all, if someone does the same thing 2000 times, it’s okay if he does it well.”
Archival Clip – [Interview with Jean Paul Riopelle in 1990 in his studio] – Almost all painters were prolific. Some of them only did masterpieces. We told Van Gogh when he was doing The night in Arles. The night in Arles was to invite other painters to paint at night. It’s him who did the masterpiece, but he did not want to hear a word. He said – Go ahead, paint by night!
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — We all can relate to the impact Jean Paul Ripelle had internationally. His mark on the artistic landscape is huge. Riopelle’s masterpieces are presented in 18 countries in over 60 public institutions across six continents. But what was the real impact he had on his contemporaries and on Canadian art history and across the world?
To answer that question, we are receiving Sylvie Lacerte. She is a historian and theoretician of art and museums. She is also guest curator for the National Gallery of Canada, presenting the retrospective “Riopelle : Crossroads in Time.” The first retrospective about this artist in this institution.
Ms. Lacerte Hello!
Sylvie Lacerte — Hello.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — So, what do you think? Let’s start with the start. How did Jean Paul Ropelle’s career start in fact?
Sylvie Lacerte — So, before he began his career, his parents sent him to take drawing and painting lessons with a man named Henri Bisson.
He learned, then, to paint and to draw and was talented. He was a really good colorist and a really good drawer too. Mr. Bisson was a representational painter and naturalist. So, Riopelle started like this when he was young.
His father wanted him to go to the Polytechnique school to get a real job, but it lasted only a year. After, he went to Montreal School of Fine Arts.
However, it was a rather academic approach to teaching. After, in 1943, he went to Montreal’s École du meuble. That is where he met his professor who became his mentor, Paul-Émile Borduas, where he also met Madeleine Arbour, Fernand Leduc and many others with whom he would collaborate later in his career, including Marcel Barneau with whom he rented his studio.
They collaborated on different exhibitions together in Montreal. In 1946, Riopelle traveled for the first time in France. He paid for his trip with the money he made as a groom in the holds. He started like this. After that, he went back to Canada in 1948 at the time of the Refus global with the Automatistes group.
Then, in fact, it is Riopelle who insisted on Paul-Émile Borduas to write the text. The text of the manifesto will then become the manifesto because his student and Borduas himself felt constrained by Quebec, that we called the “Great Darkness” under the ultraconservative government of Maurice Duplessis and under the hand of the Catholic Church.
At that time, the province of Quebec was really closed to the outside world and artists couldn’t take it anymore. So, Borduas wrote the Refus global. Some texts were added. And then Riopelle made a magnificent ink drawing as the cover of the manifesto. And that’s how it started. Then, of course, there were exhibitions where Riopelle was part of the Automatistes group, which had been set up by Paul Émile Borduas, who encouraged Riopelle to leave naturalistic figuration behind. Already, his friend Fernand Leduc, who was also a signatory of the Refus global, had encouraged Riopelle to move away from figurative naturalism and suggested that he should try to do things that were a little more expressionist… like landscapes, like Saint-Fabien-sur-Mer, in the Lower St. Lawrence region.
There were 16 signatories to the Refus global, including Borduas and Riopelle. So, this was a very important step. This is how his career began, with something big happening, like was the Refus global.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Hmm. Absolutely. These artists were influencing each other and beyond, in rupture to the world they lived in, in the form, in their discourse. So, it’s quite a big rupture that happened with the genre that was performed just before. With that came the Refus global which was important and was a subject of controversy.
So, what role did Riopelle play in this manifesto in fact? Then the issue with the controversy?
Sylvie Lacerte — His role as I said earlier, his role has been to encourage Paul-Émile Borduas to write the manifesto, to be one of the signatories and to do its cover.
But with all his comrades also, because they could not handle it anymore. All felt constrained under the government of that time. That is the reason why they were so outspoken and that Borduas was too in the text. This led him to be kicked-out from Montreal’s École du meuble. He lost his job because he was in an ultraconservative society.
So, politicians and the church were against this expression of freedom – nothing more, nothing less. Because what the artists wanted was to be free to express themselves and create, which wasn’t possible in those days.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — So, it was carrying values of liberty and freedom of speech. Two elements that were quite shocking.
Sylvie Lacerte — Yes, in fact, the Refus global was somehow one of the things that started the Quiet Revolution by the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s.
So, it’s been eye-opening for people in a way. And that many people of the same generation, in totally different fields, decided to break free from the stranglehold of the Duplessis government and the Catholic Church.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Riopelle did this through his figurative art, so he’s a visual artist. There has been an evolution in his genre. You mentioned it in the beginning, it was more figurative to more abstract, even surrealist. He also moved from painting to sculpture and then to work on paper. Could you tell us more about the progression of the genre and what motivated these transitions in format?
Sylvie Lacerte — From the early 1940s, Jean Paul Riopelle devoted himself to watercolor and ink and watercolor right from the start. And that’s a practice he kept almost to the end of his artistic career. So, that is what is interesting. Of course, the works from the Automatistes period were abstract.
And in 1949, he was in Paris for a moment, and he did a magnificent painting called ‘The Green Parrot’ from the Automatistes period. And then, from 1950 onwards, he moved on to something else. Because when he arrived in Paris, even if he was associated with artists from the lyrical abstraction movement, he never wanted to be part of a movement or a school.
He always wanted to work with freedom. From that moment, he started to create the style for which he’s known today, the one for his famous mosaics from the 1950s. Right after the ‘Green Parrot’ in 1950, he started to create with this impasto technique. Then, there were still diagonal lines running through the painting.
And a little bit later, in the early 1950s, mosaics appeared without the lines who were running through the painting. In 1954, he created the huge triptych Pavane (Hommage aux Nymphéas), which is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, which is also in the exhibition.
It is phenomenal to see his work and its monumental quality and, in his talent with colors, it is extraordinary. Then, in the 1950s, there were not only the mosaics. Because by the late 1950s, his style started to change.
So, the little strokes he applied to the palette knives became strokes. Lots of, well, wider strokes, still with impasto, and where the form began to detach from the background. And, so, it was a completely new style. And now we are around 1958, and it is still evolving.
So, he is still working with watercolor, at that moment, he was doing wonderful bright watercolor paintings with transparency. So, it is a completely different style from oil, lighter than oil. It is interesting to see the diversity in his work in the 1950s.
And, in the 1960s, he started to do prints and with the scraps of prints that weren’t chosen to be framed or shown, he cut them out and made collages, made several, several collages. Around 1967, he drew a lot.
And around the 1960s, he started to be interested in sculpture. Lastly, that is what I wanted to show in the exhibition, the diversity of his work and that he was not only the mosaic painter of the 1950s and was to show his evolution over time.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — In the end, all the richness of his work, he explored so many different genres. It also shows his curiosity, an insatiable way of exploring, searching, seeking to create a specific result through the medium, through the different mediums he uses.
Sylvie Lacerte — It was really… I designated him as a visionary explorer. He always wanted to push the limits. He never sat still. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He was curious and read a lot. He was a cultivated man and so he wanted to go further. He wanted to push his own limit constantly and never settle in comfort in a certain style, even if it has brought him a huge success. He wanted to go further and explore beyond the established limits. In fact.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — It is really impressive also what he did as an artist, exploring all these mediums and, so, his mediums to explore all these mediums.
Sylvie Lacerte — We can say medium with a S.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — We can in this context, I can reassure you. So, it was really extraordinary what he was able to do by exploring all of those mediums. What about the content, in fact, of the themes he covered in his work. Was he covering a lot of topics or was he always covering the same ones? What was it about, as we know he was close to nature?
Sylvie Lacerte — Yes, nature was really important to him. And he has always said that he was not doing abstract painting because for him, to abstract something is to take something. And it is not to remove an object but to take it and run with it.
So, he always said that he was not in front of nature like the 19th century painters that painted outdoors on their easel. He said that he was part of nature. And it’s true, looking at Riopelle’s paintings, especially the big formats, we are hit by the painting and we feel like we are really caught up in the painting and we’re called in. It’s as if you’re being called in as an observer and visitor, so that’s what he was doing.
So, he had a particular interest in animals, bears and owls particularly. At the beginning, his totem animal was the owl. We can find many versions of it in his sculptures. At the same time, because he lived in Paris, he really liked the city also and showed it in a few of his paintings like the 15 Chevaux Citroën which was one his cars. He was fond of cars and speed. He liked to drive fast on the road and in the streets of Paris too. There is one of his painting called ‘Il était une fois une ville’ so he was interested in everything.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — So this artist that was really curious, that was fascinated by the city or cars, loved Canadian landscapes, animals and to go in the North of Quebec and bring back his perception of what he felt, what he had seen, his love for light. I think he had a specific interest in geese. For the birds, for the geese. Can you tell us a little more about his fascination for geese.
Sylvie Lacerte — Geese in particular …because Riopelle was a hunter. He hunted the goose in France. When he came back more frequently in Quebec, in the 1970s and 1980s, he lived in France until 1990, but between 1970 and his definitive return, he did the roundtrip a couple of times and he discovered, in one of his trips, the Ile-aux-Oies in the Isle-aux-Grues archipelago. It is just across the town of Montmagny, on the St. Lawrence River, about an hour and a half east of Quebec City, on the south shore, where geese stop during their spring and fall migration.
So, he was fascinated by geese. And so, until his final days, until the end of his artistic career that ended in the early 1990s, he was still fascinated by geese.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — So, this extremely prolific artist in so many genres and his work had such an impact on Canadian art. In the end, with the emphases he puts on the territory in his approach as a Canadian artist with his own view of the world, in his speeches, also influenced by artists, by his contemporaries. And so, in your opinion, what is the impact Jean Paul Ripelle had on Canadian art and internationally?
Sylvie Lacerte — Jean Paul Riopelle did things no one had ever done before. Of course, Riopelle was also a contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists of the New York School in the United States. There were similar ideas floating around in the zeitgeist. But Riopelle really had his own style.
And, then, deciding to live in France, he exhibited a lot in Europe. He was present at the Venice Biennial where he represented Canada, in 1954, in a collective exhibition and again in 1962 in a solo exhibition at the Canada Pavilion. And so, he was an outstanding artist. He was showcased in museums in Europe but also in the United State and in Canada. We can even find his artworks in Asia and in Australia. We can find his artworks on almost every continent.
So, yes. He had been recognized worldwide, it’s true. There’s no doubt about it.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Doing a retrospective of his work, his artwork. You have been working on a big exhibition for three years now at the National Gallery of Canada. Can you tell us more about the intention behind this exhibition and about your personal experience in it?
Sylvie Lacerte — Yes, I mentioned that earlier. But the intention was for the Gallery. In any case, it was to have someone who could take a fresh look at Riopelle’s practice on his corpus and that is why they didn’t want to have someone who was already a Riopelle specialist.
So, I had the pleasure and the honor to be chosen by the museum and I am a contemporary art curator. This helped me to see things differently and to see works of art I had never seen before. And when I saw those pieces of art, I discovered something extraordinary and it awakened a sense of wonder in me, that was really present.
So, I was really amazed by the diversity of his art practice and that was what I wanted to show, from painting to sculpture, to paper, etc. And to show the heritage he left to the following generations.
And then to establish dialogues, not only between artists today, but also with artists who were his contemporaries like Sam Francis, John Mitchell, Alberto Giacometti, Françoise Sullivan – who turned 100 years old this year and who signed the Refus global in 1948.
So, all of this was to also show his insatiable curiosity, that he had this thirst to express himself freely and to always continue to explore, to try something that was not planned.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — And so, him as an artist is like a sponge. This extremely curious individual, like you are describing him and as shown by his work. In your opinion, what do you think is the importance of his work for actual generations and what is his place? Not only in this collective and individual imagination.
And yes, how does his work resonate in the work of other artists of our time and of future generations?
Sylvie Lacerte — Listen, I think that we can see it clearly in the exhibition today because I chose artists that were influenced by Riopelle or who were inspired by him. The artists of today. And, for example, the sculptor Patrick Coutu admitted he was influenced by Riopelle’s sculpture.
His sculpture is different but we can see the link between him and Riopelle and other artists. I will not reveal them all because I want people to go and see the exhibition.
But also through metaphorical connections between two works by artists from different cultures and generations, which you discover as you go along. I have to say, I did an enormous amount of research before I could even think of making a selection of Riopelle’s works for the exhibition.
So, I think that it is important to see what are were the links between the artists who were his contemporaries at that time and those who are today. So, I found out that there were many similarities between his work and the one of artists today. Not all of them evidently. Riopelle did not do any videos or photos. But, nevertheless, in other mediums, it’s clear that he left his mark for generations to come.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — A huge thanks to you, Sylvie Lacerte. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the life and work of Jean Paul Riopelle. Congratulations for creating this exhibition with your fresh or refreshing view like you say. I really hope that this will give listeners a reason to discover the exhibition, even if were are listening the podcast in retrospective, to go and see the cultural heritage he left behind, the artifacts of this exhibition that you are putting in place, that is of great importance at the moment, as part of the celebrations surrounding Riopelle’s work.
So, thanks for your work. Thank you for your approach and I hope this will stay and leave its mark. I hope that will invite people to discover or rediscover this artist, deepen the artist’s relation to his work and also to find a little bit of his legacy through the work of other artists that creates our cultural identity in Quebec and in Canada. It creates this social fabric.
So, he has really contributed to shaping our culture in his own way. So, thank you for contributing to something that was so important about him. Thanks!
Sylvie Lacerte — My pleasure. Thank you.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Many thanks to Sylvie Lacerte for sharing her reflection on the life and work of Jean Paul Riopelle.
Now, I have the pleasure to greet our second guest on our set: Manon Gauthier who manages Jean Paul Riopelle’s foundation since it was created in 2019 and acts as general commissioner for the centenary celebrations.
Hello Manon, thanks for being with us.
Manon Gauthier — The pleasure is mine. I am happy to be here with you today.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — So, today, we are asking the following questions: Riopelle Foundation is recent. What inspired its creation? In fact, what are its objectives?
Manon Gauthier — Indeed, the Riopelle Foundation was created in 2019, therefore, relatively recently. The inspiration behind the foundation is truly the artist. Riopelle himself dreamed of seeing a foundation perpetuate his work, bringing together artists and craftsmen from all disciplines to, as he said, save crafts and traditions that could possibly be lost in time. So, let’s get back in time, by the end of the 1960s, Jean Paul Riopelle worked at the Maeght Foundation, in southern France, one of the first and most prestigious foundations in France, that offered workshops, residencies if you like, for artists.
So, it is this inspiration that helped Jean Paul Riopelle’s wish to see his work perpetuated. We have to know that, in Europe, the creation of artist foundations is common. We have huge artist foundations across Europe such as Giacometti, Miro, Calder, Picasso. We have seen them evolve.
It’s the same in the United States. Look at the John Mitchell Foundation, for example. So, it was this dream that gave birth, several decades later, some twenty years after Jean Paul Riopelle’s death, to the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, to ensure that his work would be passed on.
The knowledge and the know-how around Jean Paul Riopelle’s work. We created it also to commemorate his whole career. We understand here that we have an artist that evolved over more than six decades of creation and of artistic renewal.
We also wanted, with this foundation, to multiply cultural collaboration. So, keeping the idea of Riopelle, who himself valued all crafts related to the arts. We wanted to bring together a variety of artists and craftsmen around the great centenary project. In the end, we wanted to design the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation with the development of a whole new generation of artists because it’s one thing to celebrate the career and life of an artist, but it is also important for us to make sure that we pass this knowledge to the next generation. We are preparing this new generation with the inspiration and timeless work of Jean Paul Riopelle. So, the Riopelle Foundation is a little bit like a hub of knowledge transmission around the huge artistic heritage of Jean Paul.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — You conceived a vast celebration program, as part of the centenary celebrations, which is one of the biggest tributes ever paid to this Canadian artist. Precisely, like we said, can you talk a little bit more about this program? What is your vision about these celebrations? Can you talk about it?
Manon Gauthier — So, what we tried to accomplish with these celebrations is to bring together a constellation of partners and programs around Jean Paul Riopelle’s work.
So, we pay tribute to an artist who, his entire life and career, has celebrated culture and Canadian art. Nature is fundamental to Jean Paul Riopelle’s work: fauna, flora and wide open spaces. So, he is constantly moving as an artist. It’s an artist that worked in so many artistic disciplines. We have paid tribute to Riopelle by creating this vast celebration program. Since 2019, we’re dedicated to bringing together artists and craftspeople from all fields of visual arts. Exhibitions are fundamental to this project. We need to give Riopelle his rightful place in our museums, galleries, public space, public art and art history.
But we also wanted artists from other disciplines, so theater with the grand Robert Lepage who created a production inspired by the life and work of Riopelle, a theatrical production, with the Riopelle project.
The music also, with the grand Riopelle symphonic project, poetry, literature, cinema – with documentaries, short film series also, which promotes the new generations. All artistic disciplines are there. So, celebrations started in 2022 and grew in 2023 with exhibitions across Canada.
There is a project called the Riopelle Dialogues that unfolded in the thirteen provinces and territories to reach communities and artists at the heart of them.
And then all these great celebrations unfolded. I think the dream of the Riopelle Foundation was to enable people across the country and internationally – we will get to France in a few seconds – to reconnect with or discover the legacy and artistic heritage of Jean Paul Riopelle in all its forms.
We are talking about a painter, a sculptor, an engraver, an art lover and a man who was really close to people, communities in which he lived in and the fact that he created both in France and in Quebec.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — What is the impact of Riopelle on Canadian art and internationally?
Manon Gauthier — When we look back to Jean Paul Riopelle’s career and path, it is an important part of the history in Canada and in Quebec and internationally. We have to understand that Riopelle was one of the few Canadian artists to be part of the postwar artistic renewal. So, we now see a renaissance that tells our story. After the war, you must look at the whole artistic movement that took Riopelle, for example, to France in the 1940s. There, besides, he became famous before coming back permanently to Canada in 1990, who also created a manifesto. Jean Paul Riopelle was a signatory to this inaugural rupture, but Riopelle in turn, with Paul Émile Borduas and under his leadership, with the Automatistes group, embodied this thirst, this desire for liberation and affirmation.
We have to remember that the Refus global manifesto and the Automatistes movement are celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2023. So that is where we are learning about a specific era. When we look at the path and heritage of the Refus global, it was a passage for the men and women who were signatories. We have to remember that Quebec was oppressive during the 1950s and that we had a group of artists who opened the path for a renewal, for an unconditional call for liberty that shook the very foundations of Quebec’s society.
So, when we look at the artists of that time, we see beyond their work. It is also the impact that they had on society, the evolution and the development. And I think that Riopelle, the Automastistes and these artists at that time, men and women, paved the way to modernity and brought Quebec into the modern age.
So, when we want to measure the impact of Riopelle on art from Quebec, Canada and worldwide, it is a trip back in time. It is a collective consciousness that helps us remember who we are. And, in the society in which we live in, we have to think about the present and the future to reassess priorities and calls for freedom, to which we assist today. To say how can we make sure that in the Quebec of today, that we give space for communities, that we give back to women, to the First Nations, to all the artists, their rightful place in history.
By celebrating Jean Paul Ropelle, what we want is to establish a dialogue between the past and the present, keenly aware of what we are bringing back on the table. They were important matters too at that time. When we talk about nature, environment, creative liberty, migration, movement, with societal and cultural priorities of today. So, that is all we are trying to highlight while celebrating Jean Paul Riopelle’s heritage.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Again, this means a lot to me. Having studied history of art and the Refus global manifesto, and as an artist, I know that, personally, it influenced both my reflection and my approach a lot. Indeed, I do not personally know anyone who does not know about the Refus global, or in fact anyone who has studied art history and doesn’t know about the Refus global. Even as a society, it has had such an important impact and in different artistic genres too, as you explain for both men and women.
I’m curious to hear your opinion on its relevance. At the moment, because in English we say “disrupting status quo”, we are breaking the status quo. I would be curious to know your opinion on the importance of this statement, precisely on breaking or challenging the status quo in our era.
We are in a period of change. We have survived a pandemic, we are witnessing major changes on the planet. So, in your opinion, why is it still important to carry on this message, of reviewing the patterns, reviewing our structures, our established order as a society that resides in each different country, each different province, each different place?
But this rupture with what was established for so long is the perfect time to innovate. In fact, we are constantly innovating. But sometimes, there are bigger leaps forward in time, some ruptures are greater than others. So, in your opinion, why is it still relevant to carry on with this message today?
Manon Gauthier — In fact, I think that it is just like Riopelle himself, this grand provocative artist, himself a nonconformist, himself unclassifiable, himself constantly in search of reinvention and renewal. Whether in terms of technique or movement, Riopelle was also one of the greatest ambassadors between Quebec and France.
Let’s have a look at his daughter, Yseult Riopelle, who signed a great exhibition at the Maeght Foundation. That was a return to the roots where everything had started for Riopelle. The Maeght Foundation is closely linked to the success Jean Paul Riopelle had known in France. I think that it helps to put this experience in today’s words and to explore Riopelle in today’s world. Today, we can rapidly see the artists that will influence their generation.
So, when talking about transmission. I think that Sylvie Lacerte does it perfectly with her exposition “ Riopelle : Crossroads in Time”. We could not wish for a better title. It is also to say what was valid at that time.
And the ardor of Riopelle, we can find it in many artists today. We can think of Caroline Monet, Marc Séguin, Manuel Mathieu and so many artists that have challenged conventions and collective and artistic thoughts.
Riopelle had to reinvent himself completely throughout his career.
We survived a pandemic that shook the whole planet and all sectors, including the culture and who forced us, somehow, to challenge all conventions to find new forms of artistic expressions and to find new forms to share and to spread art of all kinds.
So, I think that the centennial celebrations of Jean Paul Riopelle’s birth are also proof of his impact. We started the celebrations in the context of the pandemic where many artists had to delay or cancel their project. So, here it is, an ambitious foundation who wishes to pay tribute to an artist who has done it all, who has always done things his own way and who has always defied conventions.
So, the result is that hundreds of artists and craftspeople worked together and affirmed their admiration and fascination for Jean Paul Riopelle. Dozens of institutions worked together to say: we would like to express our admiration for Riopelle but update his art and make sure that it resonates in today’s preoccupation and societal priorities.
So, the result is the constellation of projects of cultural collaboration that were created because of this Canadian and international collective effort. It gives me hope for the future to see the importance we allow artists, regarding their contribution to history, but also to the present and the future of creators.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — In the end, the dream that Riopelle was carrying for so long and to which everyone believed in, and the foundation helps to centralize and support on a permanent basis this effort and his work. And this collective effort. It is your way of supporting this dream, the dream of Riopelle, is that it?
Manon Gauthier — Absolutely. We do it very humbly. And then again, we are immensely inspired by what his daughter, Yseult Riopelle, shares with us, like her own vision. I think Yseult’s catalog has given us a fundamental resource for understanding, honoring and passing on every project we are working on. We do it well.
We assure that it respects the philosophy of the artist, but also in the unconditional liberty he defended. And that is what we wish to pass on to actual generations and future ones, to tell them to make without compromise. Create! Without boundaries. Take risks because, when we look at art, when we look at everything Riopelle defended in his life, in his whole career with the Automatistes, with the surrealists, with all the people who crossed his path, to reinvent thinking and to always keep pushing the boundaries of art.
So, I think that it has become a universal means for expression and communication.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Wow ! What wonderful work! Again, congrats for all the energy and will to support the work of this grand artist that is part of our social fabric. He is part of our history.
This artist has shaped the country of Canada and the province of Quebec, in which we live today, in his own way and even the world with his international influence. So really, I say congrats to you for putting in place this initiative to a large scale, in my opinion, with such relevance and importance.
And so, I will also invite those who are listening to the podcast to visit the pavilion of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and to follow the celebrations over three years or to see the heritage or artifacts that will remain from these celebrations. It has been a real pleasure to have you with us today, Manon Gauthier. Thanks for your time talking about this promising project.
Manon Gauthier — Thanks for the invitation. And, then, we sincerely hope that Jean Paul Riopelle’s work will continue to inspire future generations of artists worldwide.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Absolutely! And to make it visible to the world, as the Riopelle Foundation enables us to do, is essential and vital to ensuring that his work continues to be visible and accessible to all. So, bravo again!
Manon Gauthier — It is the objective! Thank you.
Ariane-Li Simard-Côté — Thank you!