Starting this Saturday, June 1 and going until September 8th, the Wag-Qaumajuq is presenting a fabulous new exhibit, that showcases the work of one of the most historical and influential painters in Canadian History.

Called Riopelle Crossroads in Time, the show is a retrospective of the work of artist and progressive thinker Jean-Paul Riopelle. The exhibit showcases all facets of his creative output. It also demonstrates the huge impact Riopelle had on abstract artists of today and the reason his art can be seen all over the world
This is an exhibit that was put together for The National Art Gallery in Ottawa, for a 2023 show that celebrated the 100 anniversary of Riopelle’s birth and now this excellent show has made its way here to Winnipeg for the summer.

The Exhibit 

The show was curated by art historian Dr. Sylvie Lecerte. The National Gallery in Ottawa wanted Lecerte to take a new look at Riopelle's output through the lens of someone who was not a specialist; as she explains, "The Gallery [National Gallery] wanted a fresh look on Riopelle's practice and they thought by choosing a curator that wasn't an expert it would give some kind of a different result...needless to say I did a lot of research, because it's all very fine not to be an expert but you have to know your stuff as well." 

Riopelle was incredibly prolific throughout his career, and the exhibit is organized chronologically to show Riopelle's artistic development.  

He worked in all facets of art whether it be in abstract paintings, collages, or sculpture. As Lecerte states, "He used an incredible amount of media all through his life...He never stuck to the same type of painting and art making...he was doing all types of things at all times and never stayed in the same style. He was an explorer he was trailblazer and he wanted to go forward all the time... even if the art world didn't like the fact that he just did not stay in the same style." 

Lecerte also recognized the importance of demonstrating the enormous impact Riopelle had on his contemporaries and modern abstract artists. To make the point she has also included works by other artists who were clearly influenced by him, “I chose some works that had a connection with his [Riopelle] works, whether it be because some artists were really influenced by his work and we can see it when we look at the works...or whether it as serendipitous occurrence or is not gratuitous...but we can clearly see a link between those works and the works of Riopelle.” 


Riopelle the Progressive Renegade 

The impact of Riopelle on Candian artists is immense. He and his contemporaries helped to move Quebecois artists into the 20th century. Riopelle and his teacher Paul-Émile Borduas along with other like-minded painters such as Marcel Barbeau, Claude Gauvreau, and Fernand Leduc formed a group that became known as the Les Automatistes. Extremely critical of the Conservative Government in Quebec under Maurice Duplessis and the Catholic Church, Les Automatists railed against Quebec society. Paul-Émile Borduas with the encouragement of Riopelle wrote a document that would become infamous in Quebec. Called Refus Global (Total Refusal) the booklet took aim at the Government and the church. Many of those that read the booklet would go on to become politicians. These same politicians would start a movement known throughout Canada as The Quiet Revolution

Jean-Paul Riopelle was a singular voice in Candian art. His free thinking, progressive ideals, and his immense work ethic created a deep well of spectacular artistic material. This is a show that is a must for anyone interested in art, but also anyone interested in Canadian history and what it means to be Canadian. 

For more details on Riopelle: Crossroads in Time visit the Wag-Qaumajuq's website