Coupey tongue is découpé
Artist Pierre Coupey, the founding editor of The Capilano Review and co-founder of The Georgia Straight, sat down with The Tri-City News this week to talk about his upcoming exhibit Cutting Out the Tongue: Selected Work 1976-2012 that opens on Saturday at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. Coupey has 18 pieces in the Coquitlam show and 21 works in a concurrent display at the West Vancouver Museum, both of which end on April 27. Here is an excerpt of the interview:
Tri-City News: Is it a retrospective?
Pierre Coupey: It’s a survey because a retrospective implies a full look back. A survey is a partial look back and this is not even a large survey. It’s small. I’ve been painting since I was 15 and this is only covering 1976 to the present. Four decades.
TCN: How did you narrow the selection?
PC: Well, you have to deal with the space that you’ve got. We’re not showing any prints. We’re not showing any drawings. Only paintings: acrylic on paper and canvas in the earlier ones and, since about 1992, it’s oil on paper and canvas.
TCN: Who is the exhibit for?
PC: The question of audience is a very difficult one. When you come from the world of poetry as I do, the audience is probably fairly limited. My work is not for the marketplace. I’m not doing it for popularity. And I’m not doing it for commercial purposes. I’m doing it because I damned well want to do it, the way I want to do it.
TCN: What does the survey say about you?
PC: What I think we’re trying to say about the survey is that I primarily work in clusters, in groups, and not that they’re necessarily progressing in a linear, chronological order.... I think it says that I’ve been committed to painting for a good, long time.
TCN: Do you like what you see?
PC: Yeah. It’s interesting because usually when I hang a show of new work, I can’t stand it. It really bothers me because I can see all of the flaws. You want to start over and tear it apart.
TCN: Has your palette changed over the years?
PC: Yes, it does change and I think you’ll see that in the third show this spring at Gallery Jones [April 3 to 27, in Vancouver], the gallery that represents my work. It is called Field Work. Those are all from 2010, and yet the palette in these ones [shown in Coquitlam] is largely the yellows and the chromatic greys.
TCN: Why “Cutting Out the Tongue”? Isn’t that a bit harsh for a former editor?
PC: Yes, it’s self-mutilation.... It has a lot of implications. For Matisse [the French painter who coined the phrase], it was simply, “Stop talking about the work. Just do it.” Or, as my father would say, “Less speech and more action. Don’t daydream about it and don’t build a castle in the sky. Just get down to the work.” And that is one thing that is true about me. I will not talk about what I’m going to do. That’s one reason why I dislike artists’ statements.
TCN: What inspires you today?
PC: The things that always inspire me. I know that I derive my sources from poetry, from writers who I love and honour and respect. I’m rooted in the tradition of William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and the Black Mountain [poets]. One of the reasons that I came to Vancouver [from Montreal] is because the new work in poetry that was being done here with the TISH people like George Bowering and Daphne Marlatt.
TCN: As part of your exhibit, you have a group poetry reading on March 22 with Lary Bremner, Meredith Quartermain and George Stanley. Why aren’t you reading, too?
PC: Because I cut off the tongue!
• The opening reception for Cutting Out the Tongue: Selected Work 1976-2012 is on Sunday, March 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. Pierre Coupey will speak about his exhibit from 3 to 4 p.m. The group poetry reading is March 22 from 7 to 9 p.m.