At this time of year, Quebecers like to indulge at the sugar shack.
Of course, this tradition has been evolving for some years now, and for many, the oreilles de criss, the omelette souffée and the ham have given way to a more refined cuisine. To say that the traditional menu has become unacceptable and uninteresting would be a step that few would be willing to take. Yet, in the arts, this kind of generalization was once common place.
There was a time when Quebec was divided into two camps when it came time to talk about painting…
On one side were the purists who swore by contemporary art and the Grand Masters and on the other, a large proportion of the population who liked the picturesque subjects represented by figurative artists who were called “commercial” – what sacrilege!
Prejudices abounded, and we must confess that some of them might have been justified. For some artists of the 60s-70s, it was often easier to fall into formulas and ease. Simple subjects, executed quickly according to worn formulas and sold by art dealers without real knowledge of art who cared more about paying rent tans about art.
It was around this time that the expression “sugar shack painting” began to be used in certain media and art galleries; in circles where “serious” art lovers were gathering…
Unfortunately, this derogatory term spread quickly and critics – professional or amateur – began to use it to describe what they considered second-rate art.
The “sugar shack” was use to categorize the work of talented painters who, for better or for worse, did not have the approval of the bonzes of “serious” art.
Thus the work of painters such as Jean-Paul Lemieux, Tex Lecor Paul, Bruno Côté and even Masters such Fortin, Krieghoff and others was thrown in the same bag as painting sold in malls and furniture stores!
Fortunately, by the mid-1990s came a certain openness and appreciation for the work of some painters who are now considered masters of their art and the spirit of derision that prevailed some forty years ago has disappeared with the passing of some of the critics and other “thinkers” who assumed they knew better!
Today, it is totally acceptable in good company to appreciate art of all ilk and the cultural diversity enjoyed in Quebec has also allowed us to discover different artistic avenues and to see art for what it is: varied open and, above all, to judge art according to its merits and not according to arbitrary and often unfounded criteria.
So go ahead, like Lecor, Langevin, Tremblay, Côté and the others. The work is serious.