Paul Emile Borduas, Composition (detail), 1942, gouache on paper

The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941-1960


June 14 to September 15, 2013

Film Screening: Thursday, July 11 at 7 p.m. View four films about the Automatistes and abstract art in Canada. For details, see the events calendar.

Performances: Thursday, August 8 at 7 p.m. Dance and spoken word poetry by Free Flow Dance Company and the Saskatoon Slam Team. Reception.

The Automatiste Revolution is a comprehensive exhibition of the Automatiste group of artists, which included Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Émile Borduas. Curated by art historian Roald Nasgaard, the exhibition presents 60 works of art, photographs, books, and other archival material, borrowed from public and private collections across Canada.

The Automatistes gathered under the leadership of Québécois painter Paul-Émile Borduas in the early 1940s. Borduas was an artist and an activist for the separation of church and state in Quebec. The artists were inspired by the stream-of-consciousness writings of the time and approached their paintings through an exploration of the subconscious. The Automatistes included dancers, playwrights, poets, critics, and choreographers.

In 1948, members of the group endorsed the manifesto, Refus global, an anti-establishment manifesto written largely by Borduas. The manifesto would become a seminal and controversial artistic and social document in modern Quebec, and a contributing factor in the Quiet Revolution. The Automatistes disbanded in 1960 with the death of Borduas.

Automatism is recognized today as one of the key modernist movements in Canada. Although the artists exhibited in New York and Paris during the 1940s and 1950s, they are largely unknown outside of Canada, particularly Quebec. The Automatiste Revolution is the first major exhibition of Automatiste art to tour English Canada.

The accompanying publication, co-authored by Nasgaard and Automatiste historian and author Ray Ellenwood, includes 60 colour plates from the exhibition. The exhibition and publication are supported by the Varley-McKay Art Foundation and private donors.