“It is certain that life does not explain the work, but certain that they also communicate.The truth is that this work to do demanded this life.” What Merleau-Ponty wrote in 1948 about Cezanne is valid for Riopelle. “From its beginning, life found balance only by relying on the still future work, it was the project, and the work was announced by premonitory signs that we would be wrong to take for causes, but that make the work and the life one and the same adventure. “
Anecdotes that Riopelle recounts now illuminate retrospectively as revealing clues, like psycho-mathematical knots that the work in its complexity will attempt to unravel, to spin, to weave into networks of plastic signs and polysemic symbols. . It is not so much “real life” that matters as its echo in the imaginary universe, as the way it sounds and reverberates in creation, arranged, transfigured into a family romance, into personal mythology. While working, the artist strives tirelessly to compensate for the lacks of ordinary life, to return to energy the inhibitory forces of anxiety, to find a paradise lost in early childhood.
But it is also part of history, in a conjunction of events that awakens as much as it provokes them. Although Riopelle’s Parisian period has been abundantly documented, his Montreal youth is poorly known, especially abroad, as seen through the prejudices and clichés that overwhelm French-Canadian society, and which he himself has contributed to exaggerate. . It was obviously necessary to leave Montreal for infinite horizons, at the end of the forties, as it was necessary to leave the same way New York, Lille, Nantes or Marseille … Contrary to popular belief, there was during the war, and in the years that followed, a cultural effervescence limited to restricted circles, but intense, which made possible the emergence of a School of Montreal, quickly eclipsed it is true by those of Paris and New York.
1. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Sens et non-sens, 3e éd., Paris, Nagel, 1961, pp. 34-35.