Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
cultural and natural intrusion was felt by Borduas to wall in the indi-
vidual - person and nation - leading to the repression of freedom. The
breach in these walls was initiated in 1948 by his hard-hitting manifesto,
which Dennis Reid considers as 'the single most important social docu-
ment in Quebec history and the most important aesthetic statement a
Canadian has ever made' ( A Concise History , 233).
Borduas: Refus global and Les arbres dans la nuit
In 1948, when a group of young painters (including Jean-Claude
Riopelle) and writers (including Claude Gauvreau) published a collec-
tion of texts and visual works, headed by Paul-Émile Borduas's mani-
festo 'Refus global,' which then lent its name to the entire volume, the
cultural climate was particularly stifling, as Gagnon and Young note:
'a period which, politically, socially and ideologically, saw the last ex-
cesses in the Province of Quebec of the regime of oppression of Maurice
Duplessis … his regime was completely philistine and attached no im-
portance to art or letters' (16). In this setting, the manifesto exploded
like a bomb and led to Borduas's dismissal from his teaching position
at the École du meuble, thereby confirming his claims of political and
artistic oppression.
Not surprising for a painter, Borduas repeatedly uses spatial meta-
phors to characterize Quebec society, including 'les murs lisses de la
peur, refuge habituel des vaincus' (45; unscalable walls of fear, familiar
refuge of the vanquished); 'les lieux bénis de la peur' (45; fear-ridden
places); and 'blocus spirituel' (45; blockade of the spirit). However, 'des
perles incontrôlables suintent hors les murs' (45; some pearls slip
through the walls), and the breach widens, shrinks, then grows again
('lentement la brêche s'élargit, se rétrécit, s'élargit encore' [46]) due to
revolutionary works, until 'les frontières de nos rêves ne sont plus les
mêmes' (47; the limits of our dreams become no longer what they were),
opening new 'horizons.' In effect, confined place begins to yield to the
unlimited space of the imagination.
After detailing the social ills brought on by Western 'civilization' (48),
dominated as it is by Christianity, whose demise he encourages and
predicts (49), Borduas concludes with a powerful statement on behalf
of his group, returning to spatial metaphors and explaining the notion
of refusal in his title: 'Refus d'un cantonnement dans la seule bourgade
plastique, place fortifiée mais trop facile d'évitement. Refus de se taire.'
(51; Refusal to be ghettoed in an ivory tower, well-fortified but too easy
Search WWH ::

Custom Search