Work

Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc (2007)

Simon Martin

string quartet

Performances

Program Notes

Pierre Schneider wrote the following about Jean Paul Riopelle and his Icebergs series: “Black and white: these pre-eminent tools of drawing, he employs as a painter. When he works the surface with a knife, as is his habit, their shades are infinite, their potential bondless. Sometimes the literal image, encircled by its ring, precipitous, is more or less hemmed in, crushed in a vise of dazzling ice. At other times, though, a gentle snow covers it, caresses it, insidiously dissolves it. Here, black and white collide; there, they fuse, blending into delicious greys.” (Foreword, Jean Paul Riopelle, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne, 1981, p. 23, as cited in Riopelle, exhibition catalogue, Montréal, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, 1991, p. 141.)

What I found inspiring in Riopelle’s work is this exploration of all the possibilities of matter, without ever becoming systematic about it. Riopelle approaches these possibilities in multiple ways: with every stroke of the spatula on a single canvas (Austria, The Jacob Chatou); with series of paintings (Icebergs, The king of Thule); through diptychs (La ligne d’eau), triptychs (Ashes), quadriptychs (Midnight Sun: Quartet in White), a polyptych (Polyptyque) to several works within a single work (Le Bestiaire); through assemblies of scraps from previous experiments (Le grand assemblage); by treating a single subject in different media (the owl represented in painting, sculpture, lithography, mixed media, etc.), and so on.

In my own composition, each section can be seen as one painting within a series, or as one of Riopelle’s spatula strokes scrutinized from up close: a world in itself; organic nature with inherent contrasting structures and variations, and like this view of nature, the work does not attempt to demonstrate anything, i.e. it makes no attempt at narrative development. Instead, it is meant as the affirmation of the necessity of chance, the necessity obtained from chance, the constant reiteration of equations whose variables keep changing because they modulate one another. Consequently, everything must always be made anew (you must play to be alive: if you were to stop confronting doubt and discovery, stop throwing the dice, you would not be playing anymore and you would die). By paying tribute to Riopelle, Nature’s portraitist, my work also celebrates life and the rhythms of its manifestations.

[English translation: François Couture, iv-07]

Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc a été composée au printemps 2007 et a été créée le 28 avril 2007 dans la cadre du Composer’s Kitchen 2007 par le Quatuor Bozzini à la galerie B-312 à Montréal (Québec, Canada). Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc a été finaliste du Prix Jules-Léger de la nouvelle musique de chambre en 2008.