Built in 1887, the Saint-Anicet Church is located on the shores of Lac Saint-François, one hundred kilometers south-west of Montreal. As with many churches in Quebec, the congregation of Saint-Anicet had significantly diminished in number over the preceding decades, but the small community mobilized to preserve and transform the nave of its church into a modern space to serve as a muti-functional community hall as well as a place of worship. The success of the innovative revitalization of the Saint-Anicet Church is now seen as a model for communities across Canada and in Italy, facing similar challenges.
Montreal-area artist Yechel Gagnon was invited to participate in a project supported by the Ministry of Culture and Communications of the Government of Quebec to integrate art and architecture for the Saint-Anicet Church. Taking her cues for this project from the church’s spectacular heritage setting and the richness of its Byzantine-Romanesque architecture, and profoundly inspired by the citizens of the small community of Saint-Anicet, she sought to create a work respectful of the varied roles the space would serve while evoking the past and future identities of both the building and the community.
The work, entitled L’écho des éléments, is a two-part, bas-relief carved into laminated plywood panels made from veneers of pre-selected exotic woods, installed in the nave above the entrance doors. The final result is very much in the spirit of the artist’s oeuvre. Archetypal yet organic forms in a palette emphasizing continuities, in this instance those of nature and the built environment of the church’s interior: blue tones of the sky and the waters of Lac Saint-François in the right-hand panel’s gently modulating lines, while the left panel’s shades of red, inspired by the transparency of the stained-glass windows, respond to the presence and richness of the wood within the church. The artist’s alteration of plywood, repurposing the material beyond its single, utilitarian function, also parallels the project’s imaginative reconsideration of the public space within the church.
In her own words, “creating a work for a church interior is a great privilege as there is not only a spiritual aspect entailed, but also that of the history of a community, and more broadly speaking, that of Quebec”.
Biography of the artist: a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and Concordia University’s Master of Fine Arts Program, Yechel Gagnon has exhibited her work in Canada, the United States and France. Her upcoming projects include two solo exhibitions at the Old Presbytery of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville (Qc), 2013 and Maison de la Culture Notre-Dame de-Grace, Montreal (Qc), 2014 and a bronze sculpture for a public art project (Sherbrooke, Qc). Cynthia Reeves Gallery (New England) will be presenting her works at the upcoming Toronto International Art Fair. Yechel Gagnon is also represented by Newzones, in Calgary.Location: Quebec, Canada Architect: Yechel Gagnon
Project name: Saint-Anicet Church Photos: Marc Cramer, Richard-Max Tremblay, Y. Gagnon