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his statues, which stand in real space, Riopelle always constructs his
paintings as 'landscapes,' albeit inner ones, as he notes in an interview
from 1977: 'l'organisation d'un tableau, c'est un paysage, mais un pay-
sage mental' (the organization of a painting is that of a landscape, but a
mental landscape). 37 Ultimately, of course, the principal space is that of
the canvas itself, and the ultimate construction that of the artist, even
more than of nature, as Riopelle reminds us by a stack of mosaic blocks
to the right of the canvas and a hint of the same to the left, which bear
no possible relation to nature other than to distinguish it from the work
itself, marked by this stamp of the artist, so typical of his style as to re-
place the signature he refused to affix to later canvases, lest they im-
pinge on the integrity of the image.
Riopelle's recreated mountain, by its very liberation from reality,
from traditional forms and perspectives, stands for the artist's free-
dom, much as the mountain did for Menaud. Rather than mumble the
word 'liberty' or seek it in a distant mountain or an inner withdrawal,
however, Riopelle creates liberty by interiorizing the mountain, by
transforming it, reconstructing it on canvas: in short, he liberates the
mountain, his art form, and himself by the artist's action in 'an inten-
sive affirmation of reality' (Pocock, 113). A further pairing of painting
and text will provide yet another perspective on Riopelle's La mon-
tagne , in relation to Gabrielle Roy's novel, La montagne secrète , the sub-
ject of the next chapter. Before turning there, however, let's return
once more to the question of identity.
In an impassioned article on art and identity in Quebec in 1976, in the
wake of the Quiet Revolution, Fernande Saint-Martin, director of the
Musée d'art contemporain in Montreal from 1972-7, acknowledges
the role of Borduas and his group in building the foundation for a 'nou-
velle âme québécoise' (20; new Quebecois soul), while regretting that the
present state of the arts hinders its definition: 'Comment dans ce grand
tournoiement, le Québec retrouvera-t-il le sens de son identité?' (27; In this
great swirl, how will Quebec determine the sense of its own identity?)
Louise Vigneault pursues an answer to this very question in her
penetrating study of the automatist group, Identité et modernité dans
l'art au Québec , in which she discusses Borduas and Riopelle in detail,
noting that both artists further national identity by reactivating and
renewing a colonial archetype - Borduas the martyred missionary
(178), Riopelle the nomadic trapper (314-15) - each archetype reincar-
nated in the artist figure, as we shall also see in Roy's La montagne
secrète . More to the point here, Vigneault sees the evolving Quebec
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