The only freedom that art offers is the freedom to never stop creating it.
Artists' books produced in Quebec are often referred to as "engravers' books," and the works of Louis-Pierre Bougie are an eloquent illustration of this practice. His highly focused career in painting, drawing and printmaking began in 1967, when Bougie was a student at the École des beaux-arts in Montréal. It was there that he discovered the tools of his craft, which he would refine throughout his career.
In the 1970s, engraving was experiencing an upsurge in Quebec, taught by artists who had worked in the major European studios. By forming collective studios—a structure specific to Quebec—they were able to acquire the costly equipment needed for printing.
This was where Bougie learned his craft before travelling to Paris for the first time in 1979, a trip that would influence his career a great deal. He studied at the renowned Lacourière and Frélaut studio, which specialized in intaglio, and at the Champfleury studio, with its focus on lithography. Back in Montréal, Bougie established the Atelier Circulaire in 1983 with other artist-engravers, but continued to make regular visits to Paris studios. His exposure to European studios, where some of the most outstanding artists' books had been produced, sparked his interest in publishing.
Le prince sans rire
Who better to publish his own creations than an artist so closely associated with such established craftspeople? Le prince sans rire, published in 1983 by Éditions Lui-même, was crafted in the traditional style, but heralded Bougie's editorial intentions for his later books and marked the beginning of a collaboration with such outstanding writers as Michel Butor, Michaël La Chance, Geneviève Letarte, Gaston Miron and Michel van Schendel. Poetic and philosophical, the writings developed in collaboration with Bougie were in perfect harmony with the sombre, existentialist iconography characteristic of his work.
Fracas, a one-off book, marked a divergence along this editorial path. Composed of collages of drawings, this work stands out more for its three-dimensional presentation of the familiar world of the artist than for its reading path interpretation. Around 1987, Bougie began self-publishing his works under the company name La Griffe d'acier, including such publications as Forger l'effroi, Entre deux eaux and Les derniers outrages du ciel. These books had all the hallmarks of Bougie's work, such as the care the artist took in choosing meaningful texts that reflected the images of the tormented people in his world.
In his most recent artist's book, Le jardinier, the standard plate mark of the engraved plates is freed from its formal shape to embrace the shape of the subjects. Taking the form of flowers, samaras and treelike characters, these shapes enliven the typeset text and energize the blank page. This remarkably cohesive work received the 2006 international Saint-Denys-Garneau award for artist's book (poetry and visual arts), and Bougie was a most deserving winner of the 2005 Monique and Robert Parizeau Foundation award for artist-engravers, highlighting his contribution to the artist's book.