Page 24 - Studio International - November 1968
P. 24

Beaux Arts or the Musée d'Art Contemporain, anything to compare  Canada's two social cultures, the French-speaking one started 200
      with Toronto's Ontario Museum, with its great Chinese collections  years earlier and then stood still: it virtually missed out on the nine-
       (one of the very few major museum experiences available in Canada),  teenth century. The Anglo-Scottish settlement of Ontario, on the
      or the Art Gallery of Ontario, with its magnificent representation of  other hand, is predominantly of  the nineteenth century. Marshall
      contemporary Americans and record for exhibitions of international  McLuhan has pointed out that in the long run this could produce
      calibre. Yet perversely in Montreal, the authority of a rival metro-  unexpected rates of adaptability: that it might well be easier, in
      politan centre persists, with a clear identity, whereas in Toronto it  other words, to make a clean jump from seventeenth century to
      can seem diffuse and sporadic.                               twentieth, than to plod through the less inspiring transition from
       What the lack of a tradition signifies in the character of Canadian  nineteenth to twentieth. There are already some indications that
      art at present is a question I touched on briefly in considering  such a paradox might prove true politically; in terms of the arts, it
      Vancouver, and will return to in a moment. Montreal's 'tradition' is  probably doesn't rest with the future of painting or sculpture at all,
      of a curious double kind. Like every regional centre in Canada, it has  but with advanced intermedia thinking. Vancouver, Toronto and
      a history of lone voices in the wilderness, the occasional artist-teacher  Montreal all have their intermedia activity, and all have their con-
      preparing the way for a younger generation, and a final 'break-  tacts with the Cage/Rauschenberg EAT (Experiments in Art and
      through'. The difference is that this took place in a development  Technology) movement. Of the three, Montreal would seem to be
      closely paralleling the development of post-war painting in the  the intellectual dark horse. A painter/film-maker like Charles Gag-
      United States. In a kind of miniature version, the circumstances and  non, who is also Professor of the Philosophy of Communications at
      the timing are comparable. There were the same war-time émigrés  Loyola College, and who designed what many people regard as the
      from Europe, the same vital links with both pre-war and post-war  most 'thinking' major contribution to Expo '67, the controversial
      experiment in Paris (notably through James Morrice, John Lyman  Christian pavilion, represents a position both less exposed and pos-
      and Alfred Pellan). Borduas and his pupil-collaborator, Riopelle,  sibly more serious than much of the entertainment that passes for
      were in the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, and when a  intermedia experiment elsewhere.
      hard-edge development arrived, it was as a parallel but largely   Toronto is where all the promise and the problems of the current
      independent development rather than an American-inspired one. If  Canadian scene loom largest—a big city which can be surprisingly
      one is talking of quality in individual paintings, rather than the  small-town; an art-scene which has the strongest pull as a metropoli-
      general outlook for a healthy art-scene, I would tend to say that this  tan centre, but which has no definable centre of its own; a place
      independent continuity in Montreal, with roots going back to  where you are likely to hear the most contemptuous impatience with
      Europe, as in the finest senior-generation painting in the States,  Canadian chauvinism in art, but where the neurosis about making it
      reveals itself in the unforced poise of its best artists' work. But there is  internationally is most marked. At the Ontario Art Gallery an
      another, as yet unpredictable, aspect of Montreal 'tradition'. Of  inspired two-year period of buying by Brydon Smith (now at
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