Françoise Sullivan, Mountain (Montagne), 1997
Three murals and four benches made of granite, varied dimensions
Pavillon Président-Kennedy, Université du Québec à Montréal
Mountain consists of three large-scale sculpted murals and a series of four objects positioned on the ground. All of the elements were cut from eleven types of granite, displaying hues ranging from green to yellow, red, brown, and violet. The stone was brought to Montreal from Italy, Greece, and other locations, each variety individually chosen by the artist. Commissioned in the context of Quebec’s Politique d’intégration des arts à l’architecture, this is Sullivan’s first and only permanent sculptural ensemble and the only occurrence of her using stone to create sculpted surfaces reminiscent of her painted works. Installed in September 1997 at the Pavillon Président-Kennedy of the Université du Québec à Montréal, the monumental work was two years in the making.
The first mural is located in the pavilion’s main hall, at the mezzanine level, and represents an imaginary mountain range. The variety of polished granites Sullivan used in this element of the work highlights the diversity of geological formations, and the natural stone evokes geological time, the thousands of years it takes for magma to become granite, having crystallized and merged with rocks and minerals. At the centre of the composition, on opposite sides of a fault line, two carved goats face each other, one of them half-human. They recall the mythological figures that populate Sullivan’s Cretan Cycle (Cycle crétois) paintings, 1983–85, and her ongoing interest in the recurrence of styles and motifs over time, as in Portraits of People Who Resemble One Another (Portraits de personnes qui se ressemblent), 1971. On the mezzanine itself, back to back with the first mural, a second mountain barrier unfolds in monochromatic green Laurentian granite. A third mural leads the viewer from the main hall at ground level into a corridor. This one represents five mountains streaked with traces of magma. Carved in matte limestone, its surface contrasts with the sheen of the other two, highlighting its distinct material quality.
Four large, irregularly shaped benches have been placed near the wall of windows that open the hall onto the street. Cut from Laurentian granite, they evoke glacial erratics, boulders left there from another age. The large blocks are engraved with Greek letters from a two-thousand-year-old text Sullivan encountered carved in stone at Mount Nemrut, a Turkish archaeological site dedicated to King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene. The words mean “I escaped great dangers.”