Tribute to Pierre Gauvreau and his world
October 16, 2013
Pierre Gauvreau. I Was Hoping to See You Here
Experience this outstanding Figure at Québec city’s Musée de la civilisation
This fall Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation is paying tribute to Pierre Gauvreau and his world with a trio of exhibitions. Pierre Gauvreau. I Was Hoping to See You Here, October 16, 2013, to September 28, 2014, is an in-depth, faithful look at this outstanding figure, signatory to the Refus global, avant-garde painter, writer, filmmaker, and television broadcaster. A Collection Loto-Québec presentation. Alcoa is a partner in all Musée de la civilisation programming.
Pierre Gauvreau (August 23, 1922–April 7, 2011) was an artist who unquestionably left his mark on the 20th century. His ideas and world view infuse everything he created. He brought the modern world to Québec, and his prolific career in the arts and television constitute a heritage that has marked Québec’s cultural history. The exhibition bears eloquent witness to his work with a rich selection of pieces from 1914 to 2011—some never before on public display—including photographs, artifacts, and films by his close and loyal friend Charles Binamé.
An inspiring vision
“Pierre Gauvreau’s life and work are imbued with an inspiring world vision that lines up with every aspect of our cultural mission,” said Les Musées de la civilisation executive director Michel Côté. “Gauvreau was an outstanding interpreter of our world and key actor in its evolution. He led the assault on the limitations and restrictions of our over-rigid society and championed the necessity of freedom. The Museum’s three exhibitions on him attest not just to Gauvreau the artist and his work but to the things he cared about. Québec owes Pierre Gauvreau a tremendous debt of gratitude, and Musée de la civilisation is particularly grateful to his wife Janine Carreau, who donated much of own her collection to help us preserve and share the artistry of this larger-than-life personality with the public.”
Exhibition organizer and artist Janine Carreau and curator for the Museum Valérie Laforge chose to take the path of comprehensiveness and surprise as a way to recreate the world of the man who went after his dreams with a smile on his face. The galleries here attest to the way Gauvreau saw each canvas with new eyes. From unpublished juvenilia recently uncovered for Curriculum vitae : réalisateur et auteur to the works of marginalized artists collected in solidarity and his series Les insoumis (the unconquered) celebrating bravery of heart and mind, this seemingly familiar figure continues to surprise us. Gauvreau’s three close collaborators, Maurice Perron, Charles Binamé, and Janine Carreau, show us in their images a person always ready to roll up his sleeves in the face of life’s challenges.
Pierre Gauvreau in four chapters
Pierre Gauvreau: I Was Hoping to See You Here examines Gauvreau’s lifelong convictions through four themes and spaces. The first, Contemplating the Avant-Garde, looks at the early decades, a time of dawning awareness and exploration, by drawing on important paintings on loan from leading collections. From previously unreleased works that moved Borduas to describe him in 1941 as a “born painter” to his luminous return of 1976, it is clear that the Gauvreau’s work constitutes a single, unified body.
The Workshop of Possibility is Gauvreau’s fully occupied space, where he painted without inhibition or wrote his gripping miniseries-style trilogy: Le temps d’une paix, Cormoran, and Le Volcan tranquille. Gauvreau the painter makes the canvas speak; Gauvreau the screenwriter writes the same way—in the language of Automatism. Private, personal stories spring up and are woven into the story of Québec’s entry into the modern world. Here Gauvreau lived surrounded by his works and those of his wife Janine Carreau and his actor friends, artists for a day in the creation of the many exquisite corpses.
At one end of the workshop is outlined an asymmetrical rotunda that becomes, metaphorically, the Lyric Observatory. It is a gateway to a world of symbols, mysteries, questions, and dawning recognition. Here are the first fruits of Gauvreau’s plastic and psychological testament, Les insoumis—13 tributes to heroes often lost to history, including two signatories to the Refus global Maurice Perron and Bruno Cormier.
The fourth and final space is Infinite Gardens, where we find Gauvreau as humanist, whole and indivisible. Gauvreau once said, “I personally make no distinction between painting, writing, and the big garden Janine and I tend for our own enjoyment. They all involve playing with form and color and giving meaning to them.” For Pierre and Janine the garden was a gateway to friendship, hospitality, and generosity. In this space is displayed Gauvreau’s very last canvas, painted a month before his death in a burst of creativity inspired by an upcoming major retrospective and the 384-day Journal to celebrate his 32,358 days of life, a promise made to him by Janine at Théâtre du Nouveau Monde on May 15, 2011.
Architect of modern Québec society
“What is revealed when this exhibition is seen as a whole is a three-dimensional human being, a renegade, never vanquished, eager to break through the surface level of mere appearance,” said Québec minister of Culture and Communications Maka Kotto. “Gauvreau stormed the barricades of the impossible in search of new ways of thinking and new paths to explore. It was these convictions, this vision and curiosity that made him one of the architects of modern Québec society.”
Works full of meaning
An outstanding, abundant, and judicious selection of works, artifacts, and photographs embody the exhibition’s thematic aims. They cover 70 years of creative work—the work of a lifetime. Never-before-seen works—particularly from Gauvreau’s first decade—crop up in each of the spaces. Works by ¬filmmaker Charles Binamé, Gauvreau and Carreau’s long-time friend, are incorporated into every theme. Together with testimonials from Françoise Sullivan, Pascale Montpetit and others, short television excerpts, and Pierre Gauvreau’s own words, the artist’s vision and thought are made manifest.
Collection Loto-Québec: works of Pierre Gauvreau and Janine Carreau
To supplement Pierre Gauvreau: I Was Hoping to See You Here, the Museum also presents works of Gauvreau and exquisite corpses with Janine Carreau from Collection Loto-Québec. These exclusive, dazzling works are on view in the Museum’s second floor corridor, which is open free to the public.
A magnificent book
In Pierre Gauvreau, passeur de modernité (Pierre Gauvreau: modernity’s emissary), published by Groupe Fidés and edited by Musée de la civilisation’s Hélène Dionne, the assembled views of some twenty writers open up a bright window on this manifold creator, the full scope of whose work remains relatively unknown. This magnificently illustrated parallel creation adds indispensable chapters to contemporary Québec’s social and artistic history.
Pierre Gauvreau. I Was Hoping to See You Here runs from October 16, 2013, to September 28, 2014, at Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation. An unforgettable encounter with an unforgettable artist. A Loto-Québec presentation. Alcoa is a partner in all Musée de la civilisation programming.
Québec City: Serge Poulin, 418-528-2072, firstname.lastname@example.org
Montréal: Rosemonde Gingras, 514-458-8355, email@example.com