Posted on April 14th, 2011 by .

Artist-photographer André Cornellier’s giant panorama portraying the city of Montreal is at the McCord Museum

Inspired by photographs of Montreal taken by William Notman in 1896, 100 years later – in 1996 – Cornellier took 5,000 black and white photos of Montreal at different times of day and night and in every season for an entire year. Choosing 1,300 images, he then created a monumental mural, which is now exhibited at the McCord until October 2011. The artist will present his powerful pastiche to the public on April 20.

André Cornellier is a leading figure in the Montreal arts scene. His work has been published internationally and has won many awards. His recent oeuvre, Montreal Panorama 1996, was first created in his studio, where he stuck photos on the walls, slowly assembling his pastiche. ‘‘I just kept playing with it; taking away and then adding. I would look at it for ages.’’ Looking is an important part of his piece. I loved the details. The work starts on the far left. A soothing reflection of a tree ripples the Lachine Canal on a summer day. Then on the far right, a lone walker makes his way through an expanse of new winter snow. But in between are the people.

‘‘I love people. A city is about people. They are more attractive to me than the buildings.’’ Indeed, when you peer closely you get a feel of Montreal through the people: they are walking, shopping, getting into cars – they are the city. Cornellier’s careful arrangement is a pixilated mood: a series of sequences. They are unexpected encounters that echo daily life in a city: a mélange of memories. And then there is the huge towering sky.

André Cornellier took only a few images of the sky. But he used them over and over again, by having some photos developed darker than others. He created his ‘‘night sky with the blacker hues.’’ There are delicate details even in the sky: a little helicopter hovers and a lone cloud floats. I was reminded of the British artist David Hockney when I saw Cornellier’s articulated piece. Cornellier worked with Hockney at a conference in California. Hockney has been influenced by Chinese painting, often executed on a scroll. Time and space are an intrinsic part of Oriental art works. Similarly, as André Cornellier’s powerful panorama unfolds, it takes our gaze into the space, into the scene and into a moment in time.

TIP: When you view it, sit on the bench in the middle of the room. Look at Cornellier’s massive mural. Turn around and compare it with the Notman photo taken a century earlier. Then go closer to each one and see the mélange of memories up close and personal.

MEET ANDRÉ CORNELLIER: April 20, 6 p.m., Free entrance for all, McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke Street West, (514) 398-7100

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