Serge Lemoyne was born on June 13th 1941 in Acton Vale, Quebec. In 1958, he enrolled at Montreal School of Fine Arts. But, since sketching from plaster casts or nude live models was not the challenge that the «cultural terrorist» was looking for he was expelled in 1960.
Lemoyne was not looking to paint the usual picture, which would be hung in some museum to be admired by the rich and educated elite. He was looking for a way to bring down the fence that stood between art and the people. Lemoyne was fighting a war. Art was his weapon. The formula he was looking for must blend in with the « Révolution Tranquille. »
His experimentation brought him to use a formula, which drew from many art Medias at once. The world of the Happening was a way to express himself. In New York, in the 50s, the Happening wanted to get art out of the museums and galleries, and make it more accessible to all. Lemoyne will be the first to import the form in Quebec)
The Nouvel Âge (New Age) groups
Lemoyne painstakingly tried to put together a group of anti-conformists. In 1963, it will be the activities at the «Bal des Arts». Right next to the brand new Place des Arts, the Bal des Arts (The Arts Ball) presented its own show. In 1964, at the Social Centre of the University of Montreal, he organizes a week of activities called «la Semaine A» (The A week). The New Age group intended to gather energies from all walks of creativities in order to form an artistic collectivism. » The A Week was a complete success. More than 50 artists from all discipline participated. They tried again the following year but this time it did not work.
But, by then, another group was born. Les Horlogers du Nouvel Âge (the New Age Clock Makers) gave a show every Friday night at the Association Espagnole (Spanish Association) on Sherbrooke Street. By autumn, The Horlogers had ceased to exist. They were replaced by the Zirmat group who gave its first show on October 7th at the Guillotine. In 1968, Lemoyne went back to his old friends of the A Week to organize 20 «événements». Lemoyne will be the link who will unite all these different groups. They all had the same ideal: to fight against the aesthetic dictatorship of the Plasticiens. The New Age Group is the first group to organize artistic improvisation shows in Quebec.
Besides being the animator, social agitator, who uses electronic sound and visual medias and equipments, Lemoyne stays the undying painter. The most audacious post-modern artist in the Belle Province.
Borrowing from the Pop Art movement and dripping technique, Serge paints a series of half figurative, half abstract paintings. It is his Red, White and Blue series.
More than anything he had done before, this «Bleu Blanc Rouge» series will strike the imagination of the quebecquers. They are the colours of the Montreal Canadians. Lemoyne paints with acrylic, he creates serigraphy, and he organizes performances during which he shoots colour dripping puck on the canvases with a hockey stick. In 1969, to launch this series, he transforms the 20/20 gallery in London Ontario into a skating rink.
One of Serge’s best known pieces of work of this series is titled "Dryden". It is an understatedly simplistic portrait of a goaltender's mask, particularly that of Montreal Canadians star goalie Ken Dryden.
Lemoyne will draw from the Quebec culture to create his works. Besides using the Montreal Canadians colours, he exhibited his paintings in local taverns, and he drew from religion to organize «an apparition of the Virgin in Saint Basile».
The family home
When his mother died, Lemoyne inherited the family house, an old dilapidated general store near the train station in Acton Vale. Without the means to repair it, he used it as it was as a workshop, gallery, and even as a canvas on which he painted. Anyone interested in leaving its mark during events, were welcome to participate to the «work of art. »
The municipality did not appreciate Lemoyne's action. It demanded that the painter either restored the house or tare it down because it had become a « menace to public safety». Lemoyne went to court. The court, twice declared the house «a work of art in progress» protected by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
On July 12th 1998, Lemoyne died from Cancer. He was 57.
During the night of September 1st 2000, fire ripped through his house. It was not an accident. Someone set the place on fire. If you want to kill your dog, you say that he has rabies. When you want to get rid of a house, you say it is a « menace to public safety» and you torch it.
«A criminal fire is a crime against propriety, but the fire set in the house of Serge Lemoyne was a crime against Art».
Alain Lacoursière ― Art sous enquête ― Télé-Québec, saison 1, épisode 6