Laurent Frey and the Filles d’ardoise
An architect by training and a graphic artist by profession, Laurent Frey has long had an interest in Richmond’s Main Street and he sees the temporary art gallery at the old National Bank building as a serendipitous step in the right direction.
“Both the gallery and the current exhibition came about through a happy confluence of events,” said the co-coordinator of La Galerie Couleurs en Principale.
Frey points to three principal players who contributed to the installment of the art gallery.
“The Town of Richmond opted this year to not hang flower baskets along the town’s main thoroughfares but instead to hang colourful banners depicting flowers,” he explained.
“The original artwork for the banners,” he continued, “was done by Madeleine Lemire who is an internationally known artist who divides her time between Canada and Mexico. Richmond is where she lives and paints for about half the year.”
“The banners were designed and printed and ready to be installed,” Frey recalled, “and it seemed fitting to hold some kind of inauguration. At about the same time, I approached Nathalie Gagnon about a pop-up art gallery. Among other things, she owns what is referred to as the old National Bank building (and what some still remember as the Myra Theatre), and operates the gym, Espace en Mouvement on the second floor. Since the departure of the Richmond branch of the National Bank, the first floor of Nathalie Gagnon’s building has remained an empty storefront.”
“She loved the idea and, since it was going to be a temporary gallery, offered us the use of this space at no cost,” Frey said. “It made sense to inaugurate the banners and hold an opening of Madeleine’s exhibition at the same time.”
The inauguration was very well attended and the exhibition by the RCA artist ran for six weeks. Despite the three-letter acronym the prestigious institution is formally called the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts and membership is by invitation only. The only previous Richmond artist to be offered membership was Frederick Coburn, almost a century ago. Madeleine Lemire has been a member since 1996. Her colourful canvasses are distinctive and often flirt with the line between realism and abstraction.
“It was a very successful exhibition on several levels, including financial” Frey noted. “Several of the paintings on display were sold the same day the exhibition opened.”
This result was especially pleasing because art galleries are generally struggling these days.
It was this success that led Lemire and Frey to contemplate a second exhibition.
“We sat down and brainstormed,” the gallery co-ordinator said, “each of us suggesting names. We didn’t intend at the outset to create an all-woman show; that was just the way it turned out.”
Entitled Filles d’ardoise as a nod to the fact that, at one time, the area’s slate mines were of singular importance, the exhibition features paintings, sculptures and drawings from five women who all live in the Richmond-danville area. All five are mature artists who have hefty CVS, and, between them, some two centuries of accomplished artistic endeavours.
In addition to Lemire, four other notable artists are included in the exhibition.
Beatrice Multhaupt studied fine arts and, starting in the 1970s, taught the discipline. She is a skilled and highly realistic portrait artist with a particular interest in the relationship between healing and energy. Among other paintings on display are a number that pay homage to shamans and faith healers of the past.
Patricia Barrowman traces her interest in art back to her grandmother who introduced her to drawing and painting. She studied in both Canada and the United States, eventually graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. She has experimented with many different art forms including pottery. Horses have fascinated her since her teenage years, and her papier-maché horse is the largest single piece of artwork in the exhibit.
Noel-ange Coderre is a native of Sherbrooke but a long-time resident of Danville. She taught art for many years and has been inspired by Norman Maurice, Quebec’s father of recycling. Primarily interested in sculpture, she works with bronze, aluminum, wood, stone and resins, often making us of recuperated materials to create her distinctive pieces.
Paule Lévesque studied in England and in Switzerland before embarking on a career that included stints at the National Film Board and at Radio Canada where she did both animation and graphic design. In 2000 she decided to dedicate herself exclusively to painting. Her work has been exhibited internationally including at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Her paintings are to be found as part of the permanent collections of several museums.
“The Filles d’ardoise exhibition opened on November 7,” Frey pointed out, “and we had over 100 people in attendance. We’re conscious of Christmas being just around the corner and while we have a number of larger pieces on display, we also asked all of the artists to include some smaller pieces of artwork as well, things that might easily be purchased as a Christmas present.”
Visitors can, for example, buy packages of greeting cards from different artists. The artworks themselves range in price from $120 for small-format paintings to $90 000. The $90 000 artwork is not, strictly speaking, in the show. However, for the interested party, Patricia Barrowman’s papier-maché horse can be rendered in bronze, possibly in time for the holidays.
“If you didn’t make it to the exhibition’s opening,” Lemire said, “you are welcome to the exhibition’s closing on November 24 at 2:00 pm. Lately it has become quite fashionable to celebrate the closing as much as the opening. “
La Galerie Couleurs en Principale is located at 60 Main Street in Richmond and is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.