Sommet

Vu : l’exposition Artistry Revealed: Peter Whyte, Catharine Robb Whyte and Their Contemporaries présentée du 18 mai au 26 août 2019 à l’Audain Art Museum; et lu : Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape, catalogue de l’exposition éponyme présentée au même endroit du 11 novembre 2017 au 26 février 2018.

Caché derrière quelques conifères au milieu d’une mer d’automobiles, l’Audain Art Museum est une « petite » folie qui rend, paradoxalement, un hommage solennel à la majestuosité du paysage au loin. Le fossé est effectivement colossal entre les tentacules du village de Whistler, qui mordillent tous les orteils de la montagne, et la sérénité qui se dégage des oeuvres dans le calme monastique des salles d’exposition.

Photo : Audain Art Museum, 2019, Léïc Godbout.
Toile : Mount Unwin and Charlton, Maligne Lake, Jasper, vers 1924, Lawren S. Harris, source.

Comme le décrit bien Lisa Christensen dans son essai At the Summit of the Soul :

« I do know that when I am in the mountains, I feel them round about me in a powerful and omnipresent way. […] The mountains have a remoteness to them that comes from the fact that they are not of our making, nor can we control them. […] This realization is very humbling. Despite all of our efforts to pave roads, to ascend peaks, tunnel mines and build railways and bridges, the mountains are still in charge, as if to remind us of this fact, they smite us every now and then, with a flood or by retaining snow all summer and making alpine trails inaccessible, or an avalanche, shedding some of themselves onto a road or disrupting our lives for a time. I think perhaps my affection for them also has to do with respect for their age, they were here long before me, and will be here long after I am gone. » (p. 63)

Photo : St. Maurice River West of Fitzpatrick, Québec, 1916, W.M. Notman & Son, p. 27.
Toile : Laurentians, vers 1912, Lawren B. Harris, p. 13.

En même temps, comme l’explique Darrin J. Martens dans son essai An Unseen Landscape :

« Geological surveys and the expansion of the railroad were inextricably linked and utilized as tools which assisted in creating the mythology that these mountain landscapes were unexplored, uninhabited and underutilized spaces when, in fact, many indigenous communities lived within these locales […]. Indigenous presence and inhabited landscape was conspicuously absent within much of the material published at the time. This picture would, over several generations, contribute to settler incursions onto indigenous lands » (p. 96) « These acts of erasure are one unseen landscape. » (p. 99)

Photo : View of Cathedral Mountain, 1898, photographe inconnu, p. 91.

Comment concilier ces réalités contradictoires, tout le mystère de paysages « vierges » et la violence d’une colonisation qui se poursuit, à l’encontre de ceux qui habitent ces montagnes depuis toujours, au détriment du caractère grandiose lui-même des lieux ?

Illustration : Mt. Raleigh, 1974, Arnold Shives, p. 123.