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Rock Lamothe: A contemporary art oasis in the middle of the Vieux-Noranda

Written by Gabrielle Izaguirré-Falardeau

In the heart of Old Noranda, entering Rock Lamothe’s gallery is like entering a parallel universe. The white walls of a spacious and pared down room display the works of the current exhibition. Then, by moving forward, we discover some tighter corners, where the works of various Abitibi-Témiscamingue artists are displayed together permanently (or almost) and transport us in the blink of an eye into their world of colours and shapes. We then forget about the world and let ourselves be guided, enthralled, by the eclectic approaches of the spotlighted creators.

Founded five years ago, Rock Lamothe – Art contemporain is the only commercial gallery in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. In addition to being open for visitors, the place aims for the representation and the showcasing of local artists.

Credit: Christian Leduc
An inherited expertise

Born in a village in the suburbs of Trois-Rivière, Mr. Lamothe obtained a PHD in Esthétique, Sciences et Technologie des Arts from Université de Paris VIII, and then settled down in Rouyn-Noranda over 40 years ago. Throughout his career, he has offered a variety of courses in visual arts at UQAT, where he has greatly contributed to the development of programs of that field, an heritage whose impact is still felt to this day: “Those programs have been offered everywhere on the territory and that is what is amazing. It was not exclusive to Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d’Or, they were also offered in La Sarre, Ville-Marie, Amos, Senneterre, every city ended up offering one of the programs.” Today, this explains in part the impressive number of visual artists in the region, proportionally to its population, a dynamic ecosystem that convinces creators from everywhere to come live here.

Photos: Donald Tépanier
Photos: Donald Tépanier
Believing in local art

The idea for the gallery was born as he was nearing retirement: “I am a bit hyperactive, I was thinking ‘What will I do? I’ll die!’ I had always paired together my personal practice, teaching, all of that. I thought: ‘I won’t spend all my days in the workshop, I’ll go crazy!’ Thus the idea for the gallery was born: ‘Everything was connected. I told myself, those young people, I trained them in some way, now I will try to promote them.’” Mr. Lamothe thus ended up representing 18 artists from Abitibi-Témiscamingue selected according to the quality, interest, and originality of their work, and their resolutely modern approach.

Since then, he has been pursuing with passion and conviction the objective of including their works in a variety of collections, whether private or corporative, or that of museums. Convinced of the value of the work of local artists, Mr. Lamothe tries through different means to make them known in the big cities while waiting to obtain the notoriety necessary to participate in the various fairs where major art collectors mainly buy. He does it, among others, through pop-up events outside of the region. This is, however, no easy task: “In the fairs, you can always see where the works were created; it’s always Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, but never smaller cities. Contemporary art happens in large part in major cities. Being from a small region, having a gallery in Rouyn-Noranda, seems beyond them, it simply isn’t possible.”

Credit: Donal Trépanier

Mr. Lamothe is the first to admit that you have to be a bit crazy to begin such a project in the middle of such a small population pool, but observes that slowly but surely, he manages to raise the awareness of the field’s different players regarding the professional character of the creators he promotes.

Transmitting a passion

A teacher at heart, Mr. Lamothe also continues to educate the curious visitors who walk through the door of 131, 8e rue. “The people who enter here are greeted and guided if they so wish. I always present the artist at the front, and, if they want to, I tag along to present all the artists. Some people come only for that, to be accompanied, to discover, to understand what we do not understand sometimes. It is part of my work.”

One thing is sure, the population of Rouyn-Noranda can be happy to have access to the only gallery specialized in contemporary art outside of Quebec City and Montreal, all thanks to the expertise,S bold vision, and contagious passion of Mr. Lamothe.