Marc Chatelle and our collective memory.
Over the years, my perception of art and the role of the artist has obviously evolved.
As a young artist, barely out of school, I saw art as, above all, a way to break conventions, to disturb and to stand out from other people.
Later, I realized that one could use art to make people think without shocking and changing perceptions without being iconoclastic.
Several years ago, I finally realized that everyone did not need to see art as a way to change their life or the world and that, for many art lovers, beauty and emotions were much more important than intellectual concerns.
I learned that art is not a one-dimensional reality but a multi-faceted entity and that, at the end of the day, everyone had their reasons to love art and understand it at various levels that were just as defensible one than the other.
Marc Chatelle is one of those artists who is able to open the drawer of our collective memory and awaken memories that we thought were asleep forever.
A largely self-thaught painter without pretensions of fame, Marc Chatelle was born in 1935 in Cuels, near Saint-Tropez, France. He arrives in Montreal at twenty.
Journalist by profession, he worked for some of Quebec major weekly newspapers and went on to manage several: La Patrie, le Petit Journal, Point de Mire, le Samedi, etc. In 1980, he found himself at the helm of Échos Vedettes, where he worked for seventeen years.
Retiring at sixty-two, Marc Chatelle, is offered a box of colors. It’s the beginning of a new career!
Deeply rooted in Quebec’s popular history, its institutions and its celebrities – which the artist rubbed shoulders with – Marc Chatelle’s work brings the viewer back to a bygone era that is still well alive in the memory of those who lived it.
The reactions elicited by Chatelle’s painting are therefore, as I wrote above, purely in the realm of emotion, and I challenge anyone who has lived in Quebec from the 1950s, 60s and 70s to remain cold in front of a snapshot of a grocery store where posters, ads and other relics of our past project us to a time that we would like to believe not so far away.
Just as striking by the memories it provokes, his “Crèche des Pays d’en haut” mixes characters from the famous TV show “Les belles histoires des pays d’en haut” with other Quebec icons such as Maurice Richard, Félix Leclerc or Marguerite d’Youville as well as other symbols representative of our culture and history. It should be noted that this painting is now in the Saint Joseph’s Oratory Museum where it sits within the traditional Nativity exhibition.
La crèche des Pays d’en-haut © Marc Chatelle —- Collection du Musée de l’Oratoire Saint-Joseph
The work of Marc Chatelle will never be part of the local or international artistic heritage – it is not his mission.
Chatelle is more of a documentarian of history – big and small – and a curator of Quebec’s collective memory.
To me, it’s more than enough to make him an important artist and amply justify his place in art galleries and prestigious collections here and elsewhere.