Ulysse Comtois

« My art philosophy is that distinct categories such as abstract art and figurative art don’t exist.  These are not mutually exclusive, opposing genres.  Rather, they form one continuum.  It’s a question of degrees, not of species.” (1991)

Painter-sculptor Ulysse Comtois’s professional career spanned over forty years.  He  exhibited with the Automatistes, an important artistic movement which radically changed the world of Canadian art, and was also one of the first sculptors to experiment with the technique of welded metal in Canada.  Comtois was awarded the prestigious Paul-Emile Borduas prize in 1978 for his contribution to the Quebec and international art scene.  

In 1948, Comtois left Granby to attend the Ecole des beaux-arts in Montreal but soon dropped out, realizing that his interests were more in line with the ideals of the Borduas-led Automatistes than those of the formal institution.  In 1954, the artist participated in the famed automatist exhibition La matière chante at the Galerie Antoine.  In Montreal, Comtois also came into contact with the Plasticiens and their rigorous geometric abstractions.  From 1960 onward, he primarily created modular sculptures, inspired by a visit to a New York exhibition of sculptor Julio Gonzales’ work.  Comtois gained much acclaim for his three-dimensional pieces such as Column (1967-1968), even receiving a Canada Council for the Arts Grant in 1962, which allowed the artist to travel in Europe and Israel for a year. 

In 1967, Comtois was commissioned to create a mural for the Administration and News Building of Montreal’s Expo 67, and received a second Canada Council for the Arts Grant later that year.  The following summer, he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale.  Comtois was a member of the Canada Council Visual Arts Jury in 1969, and taught for many years at the Université du Québec à Montreal and Concordia University.