2017 Herménégilde Chiasson

Herménégilde Chiasson 2017(photo – James Wilson)

Jurors lauded both Mr. Chiasson’s accomplishments as a visual artist and his sustained advocacy work for the cultural life of the province.

Based on the recommendation of a five-person professional jury, the Board of Directors of the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation announces that Herménégilde Chiasson has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Strathbutler Award. Mr. Chiasson joins a celebrated list of Strathbutler artists whose work has enriched the cultural fabric of New Brunswick.

In recommending the 2017 recipient, jurors David Balzer, Victoria Henry, Aaron Milrad, Amélie Proulx and Tom Smart lauded both Mr. Chiasson’s accomplishments as a visual artist and his sustained advocacy work for the cultural life of the province.“We are happy to recommend Herménégilde Chiasson for the 2017 Strathbutler award in honour of a profoundly significant body of work. While we recognise the strength of many nominees, we are particularly impressed with the breadth and sophistication of Chiasson’s work, as well as its acknowledgement of, and advocacy for Acadian histories. In addition to Mr. Chiasson’s contributions to the province as a leader and a mentor, he has paved the way for subsequent generations of New Brunswick artists.”

Nominator Thaddeus Holownia describes Chiasson as a “Renaissance Man…a role model, an intellect, a passionate creator and a humble man whose accomplishments reach far beyond the regional art world.” Beginning with his first professional exhibition in 1967, Chiasson embarked on a multi-faceted career in arts. He holds Bachelor degrees from the University of Moncton and Mount Allison; Masters degrees from the Sorbonne, Ecole National Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris and the State University of New York as well as a PhD from the Université de Paris (Sorbonne). A painter, a filmmaker, playwright, photographer, and writer, Chiasson pushes the limits of all disciplines avoiding the promotion of any particular style in favor of curiosity and research in his eclectic practice. With over 150 exhibitions in major galleries, Chiasson has had a rich career as a visual artist. Equally, he is a teacher and statesman. He has served arts organizations provincially and nationally and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. In his tenure as Lieutenant-Governor of the province his advocacy for the arts has enlightened the province’s appreciation and understanding of the value of arts. As noted by John Leroux in his nomination of Mr. Chiasson for the Strathbutler “Herménégilde Chiasson embodies the spirit of an individual who has achieved excellence in his field of visual art and who has made a substantial contribution to the province of New Brunswick”

Continuing a tradition established by the foundation’s founder, Sheila Mackay, the newest recipient of the Strathbutler award will be recognised at a public celebration. The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Mr. Chiasson will be presented with the award on October 20 at the Aberdeen Cultural Centre in conjunction with the opening of a retrospective exhibition of his work.

In the artist’s words

In 2017, it will be fifty years, since Selection 67, my first professional exhibition. Specifically, this exhibition was directed by a curator who wrote and essay and was accompanied by a catalogue. Since this era, which seems so remote today, I have studied at prestigious institutions, taught, been involved in the establishment of galleries and institutions, wrote and published many articles, served as curator but mainly produced a body of work, that has been exhibited here in New Brunswick and elsewhere nationally and internationally.

My earlier work has been concentrated on a more traditional nature, mainly in painting and drawing. Following my BFA at Mount Allison University I devoted my artistic work to conceptual projects, that I pursued during my stay in Paris at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and at the Paris 1 University (Sorbonne). My PhD thesis in aesthetics ideas with American photography, which lead me to the University of New York (MFA) and to a greater interest in using photography in my artist books and many other works. My long period of studies ended in 1983, at the age of 37. They are a testimony to a huge catching up at a thought oriented process towards modernity, pertinence and a vision at times articulated against the current of the ambient milieu.

Parallel to my activity as a visual artist, I am a writer whose work has often been linked to my artistic production. This has led me to act as a critic and essayist for I am convinced that it is of the utmost importance to put ideas in circulation and to debate them in public spaces. Born in a culture (Acadian) and a milieu where this kind of activity is quite new, I have applied myself to assure that we are able to articulate our ambitions and find a way to publicize them. In this perspective, my involvement in the community has moved on many axis mainly by making culture and art an important component of our presence and our becoming. The possibility to do my artistic contribution here, in New Brunswick has always been an honour and privilege.

As to my artistic work. I have the feeling that I have made a complete turn around. From my years of work in a more conceptual perspective, I have come back to figuration and painting. Most of my exhibitions are now organized around a theme, a technique or even a colour, which gives them a unity in relation with the gallery space where they are shown. This has brought me to put forward a rather eclectic vision, consciously avoiding the promotion of a particular style to devote more attention to curiosity and research, which in my mind, is more prone to stimulate innovation. But I am also conscious that you can’t escape one’s destiny. Without my full consent, something might come up, from the outside, which will probably be labelled as my specific style.