B.C. art collector Michael Audain announced Thursday the establishment of a foundation dedicated to advancing Quebec abstractionist Jean-Paul Riopelle’s creative vision in the run-up to the centenary of his birth in 2023.
Mr. Audain, who owns more than 30 of the artist’s works, said in a statement that the foundation’s objective is to “promote the rediscovery of Mr. Riopelle’s legacy as an iconic visionary, a symbol of freedom, creativity and experimentation.”
One of the most internationally celebrated artists Canada has ever produced, Mr. Riopelle was born in Montreal in 1923 and educated at the École du meuble. His teachers included the abstractionist Paul-Émile Borduas, who pushed him to abandon realistic styles and begin his modernist experiments.
In 1948, Mr. Riopelle was one of the 15 Automatist painters who signed Mr. Borduas’s Refus Global. He also provided the cover art for this provocative statement of artistic and social freedom launched in the face of conservative Duplessis-era Quebec.
Increasingly recognized by New York and Paris dealers, Mr. Riopelle moved to France around that time and adopted what would become his signature style. Using a palette knife, he would build up thick layers of paint, creating dense, multicoloured mosaics of intersecting lines and rectangles.
Although abstract, his works were sometimes interpreted as a reflection of a Canadian landscape of rocks and trees. He spent much of his career in France before building a studio in Quebec in 1972, and settling back in Canada in the 1990s. He died at Île-aux-Grues in 2002 at the age of 78.
The foundation has hired Montreal cultural administrator Manon Gauthier as an executive director and has formed a board of directors that includes Yseult Riopelle, the artist's daughter.
The foundation plans a series of national and international initiatives over the next four years to make Mr. Riopelle’s work better known, support young artists and encourage experimentation in art making.
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