Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory, and the mother of the Muses by Zeus but to be honest, I could not make the link between her mythology and the topic of the exhibition. Then I found out that the title isactually based on the approach outlined by a German art historian, Aby Warburg (1866-1929), in his publication Mnemosyne Atlas, whose focus was on the complexity of images and how they interrelate rather than their simple classification.
The MMFA's take is truly exciting, as is the venue. It is taking place in the new Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, and the installations, paintings, sculpture and photography by 14 contemporary artists from Quebec and Canada are a gateway to what is in store for the visitors.
The works of Edmund Alleyn, Rebecca Belmore, Catherine Bolduc, Dan Brault, Jack Chambers Pierre Dorion, Karel Funk, Manon Labrecque, Mathieu Lefèvre, Karine Payette, Michael Snow, Marion Wagschal, Kim Waldron and N.E. Thing Co. collective (Iain & Ingrid Baxter) were each freely associated - what thrill for the curator, Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art at the MMFA -with paintings in the Museum's international art collection by such great artists as Paulus Bor, Valentin de Boulogne (known as Valentin), Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Salvador Dalí, Claude Gellée (known as Claude Lorrain), Jan Fyt, Sigmund Holbein, Eugène Isabey, Jacques Linard, Claude Monet, N. L. Peschier, Pieter van Roestraten, Jacques Sablet the Younger and Jean-Joseph Taillasson.
This seemingly complex juxtaposing of various styles and mediums, not to mention time periods, actually produces a fascinating series of visual dialogues, exposing an aesthetic that is in fact timeless, as styles and themes weaving through all of the artwork find echo and kinship. In some of the pairings the connection between the two works is instantlyvisible as in Dan Brault's Lingering in Time's House (Vanitas)and N.L Peschier's painting by a similar title, Vanitas. Both adhere to the code of the vanitas genre, i.e. presenting still life with symbols of death, and they even reflect a similar composition - with a skull as the focal point - while revealing an entirely different painterly approach.
Not so obvious at first glance is the pairing of Rebecca Belmore with Jean-Joseph Taillasson, but soon proves to be themost intriguing, and moving, of all the selections. Belmore's installation-sculpture of a black hooded figure kneeling on the floor and titled Mixed Blessings is juxtaposed with Taillasson's painting, Saint Mary Magdalene in the Desert;the emotional component of both works is powerful, the shared drama of the female protagonists undeniable.
The exhibition continues well into next year, and for a good reason. It will take several visits to fully appreciate and enjoy this terrific presentation.

Image
Rebecca Belmore (born in 1960)
Mixed Blessing, 2011
Cotton jacket, synthetic hair, beads, Hydrocal. MMFA, purchase, Louise Lalonde-Lamarre Memorial Fund. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley and Jean-François Brière.

Image
Jean-Joseph Taillasson (Bordeaux 1745 – Paris 1809)
Saint Mary Magdalene in the Desert, 1784
Oil on canvas, 205.7 × 195.4 cm. MMFA, purchase, The Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest.

Image
Dan Brault (born in 1979)
Lingering in Time’s House (Vanitas), 2016
Acrylic and oil on canvas. MMFA, purchase, gift of R. Fournelle. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest.

Image
N. L. Peschier (1659-1661)
Vanitas, 1660
Oil on canvas, 70 × 89.5 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest.

 

MNEMOSYNE

When Contemporary Art and the Art of the Past Meet
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion – Level S2
1380 Sherbrooke St W.
Montreal, QC
www.mbam.qc.ca(lien externe)

April 12, 2017, to April 8, 2018