Raymond Gervais, the man of visual music, ” died

Photo: Martin Lipman
The artist Raymond Gervais leaves an immense, heterogeneous by its forms, large in its dimensions.

In 2014, then the winner of the Governor general’s Award in visual and media arts, Gervais had taken all his modesty when he had spoken. Verbomoteur but modest, he summarized his long career with a stroke of luck.


“There was a job to do and I was the right person at the right place at the right time,” he said.


The right time stopped. The conceptual artist, author of countless sound installations and silent, passed away on 6 January, the victim of a short but unforgivable disease. He was the spouse of the ex-chief of the journal Parachute Chantal Pontbriand, with whom he had a child. He was 72 years old.


Active since the 1970s, first in the worlds of music and media, and then in the visual arts, Raymond Gervais leaves an immense, heterogeneous by its forms, large in its dimensions. It must be said that this self-taught assumed was one of the pioneers of installation art in Canada.


If he was able to ” invent the world “, as it was reported in The line of Duty, is that it has benefited from the openness of a sector. “The visual arts community has been the great host of people like me. If we do nothing, we can invent a world, a poetic universe singular and join the people “, he comments in a video shot on the occasion of the Governor general’s Award.


Co-founder in 1973 of the Workshop of experimental music, then a researcher at Radio-Canada, he directed in 1975, the video Start/puisqu’à toute fin correspond, his first work. All its ingredients are there : music, performance, images, objects, silences. The polyphony of his work has resonated in an echo of his erudition, to his mélomanie and their appreciation of the archives, he has repeatedly exploited.


The gaze and listening were the two major axes in this son of a repairer of tvs. The music, it was integrated, not literally, but by means of tools and photographs. For him, the objects of the music were visual, the phonograph, the turntable, the partition to the metronome, of the vinyl to the CD case.


Among his works the most influential is stress Henri Rousseau, the record player and the recreation of the world (1987), In the cylinder (1994) or le Théâtre du son (1997), encyclopaedia inviting them to imagine a air, a noise. Made up of 250 cases, the work combines words and music — ” Marcel Duchamp breathes “, for example.


A work, a story


In 2007, author and independent curator Nicole Gingras has published her interviews with the artist, entitled, Puisqu’à toute fin correspond, a nod to its founding work. By way of preface, the researcher will make him a vibrant tribute.


“Listen to Gervais, it is also to meet a storyteller the prodigal […] The intelligence with which it establishes links between the works, things and beings confirms a deep knowledge of the history of the music, art and photography, as well as the vitality of a memory and the singularity of vision. This scholarship is channeled in the work of associations, endless, carrying as much of fictions. Behind every work, there is a story. Behind every story, there is a work. “


“His records imaginaries are of the troubling machines to travel back in time,” she wrote, too.


Nicole Gingras has signed a major retrospective of the artist, entitled Raymond Gervais 3×1. So great that in two places (the university art gallery, Leonard and Bina Ellen art gallery and the center Vox) and two years (2011 and 2012) were required. The dimensions of audio and visual, Nicole Gingras has been added to the share text in Gervais, whose words were already on board in 1977 when he published articles on music in the nascent Parachute.


Review the career of Raymond Gervais, it is to review the recent history of art in quebec. Including the one in the market, surprisingly. The artist has been defended by the best galleries : Chantal Boulanger (1980), Jean-Claude Rochefort (1990) and René Blouin (1990 and 2000), as well as Roger Bellemare-Christian Lambert, where he exhibited in 2017, a last salute to Claude Debussy, one of its composers fetishes.


Gervais has been supported by the museums, especially at a time where they were less cautious in his poetry. His first retrospective, The next a musician (1999), has also taken shape at the Musée d’art de Joliette. He has also participated in thematic exhibitions headlights, between Aurora Borealis (CIAC, 1985) and the edition on the mont-Royal of the triennial Artefact (2004).


In addition to the Price of the Governor-general, Raymond Gervais has received, in 2010, the prestigious prix Ozias-Leduc foundation Nelligan. The highest honour, the prix Borduas granted by the government of Quebec, has surprisingly escaped.