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Gallery of Artists

Roland Giguère and Éditions Erta

I enrolled in a graphic arts school in 1948. I was writing poetry, reading voraciously and exploring surrealism. Refus Global had just been issued. I remember there was a question on the application form, 'Why graphic arts?' I answered, 'For the love of books.' Already, I had a defined yet boundless desire: I wanted to publish, to print.
[Translation]

—Roland Giguère

These few words sum up Roland Giguère's passionate commitment to publishing. This visionary emerged as one of the driving forces in the development of the artists' books in Quebec. While studying at Montréal's École des arts graphiques, Giguère contributed on Impressions, a student-run publication that served as a testing ground for ideas and experimentation in images and design. At the school, he met bookbinders Pierre Ouvrard and Jean Larivière, who would become valued partners in his future publishing projects.

A red case with grey binding has black print in the top right corner, and a black and white illustration on a white circle in the centre of the cover. On top and to the right of the case is a white page with a black and white illustration. On top and to the left of both of these is a black page with white borders and a handwritten title and signature in white.

Faire naître

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Giguère established Éditions Erta and, in 1949, published Faire naître, a collection of 22 poems illustrated by four screen prints by Albert Dumouchel. Giguère was already smashing the conventions of the illustrated book: with a print run of 100 copies, and the use of standard offset paper and commercial screen printing techniques, this publication was a breach in the "deluxe" traditions of this type of work.

An unravelled brown paper scroll is upright in a circular pattern, showing brown print and some illustrations, and two dark brown wooden rollers (one in the centre and the other in the foreground) at either end of the scroll.

Abécédaire

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His most innovative works appeared between 1950 and 1954, the year Giguère went to Paris. These were 3 pas, Les nuits abat-jour, Midi perdu and Images apprivoisées. Giguère described these as "private publications" as only about 20 copies were printed and given to "friends and loved ones." In his words, these works were "made of bits of string, scraps of paper, remnants, mistakes and regrets." Each booklet was a prelude to approaches that Giguère would return to in later works. The text of 3 pas was accompanied by Conrad Tremblay's linocuts; Dumouchel printed Les nuits abat-jour from printing scraps; Midi perdu anticipated the arrival in 1975 of the volumen Abécédaire, which featured handwritten text and drawings by Gérard Tremblay printed on architectural blueprint paper. Images apprivoisées marked a turning point: the text was "inspired" by a collection of photoengravings found in a box, with no information about their origin or significance. Giguère immersed himself in all aspects of this book-concept and became the forerunner of a new approach to the artist's book.

White bordered page with a blue interior, covered by light blue, pink, and partly white text and two dark yellow illustrations.

Paroles visibles

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A multidisciplinary artist, Giguère identified with the Surrealist movement. During his time in Paris, he met Belgian poet and engineer Théodore Koenig, a friend of painter Pierre Alechinsky. Giguère also collaborated on the review Cobra—which would later become the Revue internationale de l'art experimental—and participated in the Phases movement that evolved out of the Cobra group in Paris. Toward 1957, Giguère returned to France, where he attended the École Estienne and worked in various Paris studios, including that of engraver Johnny Friedlaender. Enriched with this expertise, Giguère produced works during this period that had more in common with the elegant artists' books of the French tradition. The book Adorable femme des neiges1 reflects this influence, and in his final work, Paroles visibles, a kind of artist's book produced in 1983, Giguère returned to the idea of uniting text and images that he had begun in 1950 with 3 pas. This marked the end for Éditions Erta, born one night in 1949 under the failing neon lights of the Alberta Hotel, but not for Giguère. He would go on to publish many more works through Éditions de l'Hexagone and Éditions du Noroît.

1 The poem and prints in the artist's book Adorable femme des neiges were produced in 1959 in Châteaunoir, Aix-en-Provence.