Memories allow the imaginary to reinvent itself. I succeed at bringing myself into the introspective journey. I ask myself: Do I still remember?
As a child, Frédérick Ouellet dreamt of painting gigantic frescoes inside churches. Not particularly religious, it was the staging that appealed to the young artist. But even then, catholic churches in Québec were not exactly an artistic hot spot; he turned his artistic ambitions elsewhere. The commissioner of Scout Canada became his first patron at the age of 11 when they purchased a painting he had done of Robert Baden-Powell, the founding father of the Scout movement.
In the years that followed, Frédérick developed his talent for painting large murals. At the age of 16, he started his own business. He soon employed 5 people . His early clients were bars, nightclubs and restaurants but they were eventually replaced by theatres, circuses and opera companies. Self taught, Frédérick had a raw talent, a sense of the theatrical and of the whimsical. He could easily invent, reproduce or create anything he was commissioned to do. Today, after more then 25 years in the field of scenography, he has a large roster of clients.
His true passion however, is of a more personal nature. Frédérick Ouellet has exhibited for the past 16 years in several galleries in Canada and the US. His work is part of many collections. Being an artist is fun he tells me. He is comfortable in his own skin.
He makes no preparation before beginning a new painting. In the tradition of the Surrealists, it’s in the spontaneity of painting in the moment that the canvas becomes filled with personal iconography, unfiltered dreams, memories and symbols. At the same time, he remains mindful and respectful of a certain tradition that mixes both the modern with Baroque techniques.
When I visit his studio, he shows me a series he did a few years ago; paper collages mixed with dried candies and cereals… a strange mix of kitsch and the surreal. He doesn't want to take himself too seriously but at the same time, he doesn't consider this work frivolous. It is a love of childhood memories that originated the idea.
In the past few years, Baie St-Paul in the Charlevoix region is becoming more and more a place he wants to call home. He is now leaving the city to move there. It makes perfect sense; the combination of mountains and the St-Laurence river feel magical: it is the site of an ancient impact crater called l’Astroblème de Charlevoix. These vistas have become omnipresent in his work.
I recently visited a retrospective of his work at the Maison de la culture Marie-Uguay in Montreal titled Je me souviens encore…. (I still remember)
Through memories I revisit these places, these moments, these feelings. I can stay in the same place and rediscover them again and again. I remember the scenes that I am built from. Sometimes, a familiar landscape seems different. I taste a sweet that brings me back to a happy childhood memory.
As someone who has family roots in Charlevoix , I look forward to seeing what this remarkable change of scenery will bring to Frédérick’s pictorial language and personal narrative. To be continued…..