Two alumni support each other’s artwork
Jérôme Nadeau, BFA 11, MFA 16, so appreciated the artwork of fellow Concordian Jeanie Riddle, BFA 02, MFA 05, that he offered to make a book of it.
At 31, some might think Nadeau is bit young to be offering artists book deals. Yet in spite of his youth, Nadeau has already had a prolific career.
He is first and foremost a photographer, albeit an unconventional one. As Nadeau says, “I don’t use a camera, most of the time.”
Through his artwork, he seeks to explore the physical quality of photographs. Nadeau will use a type of ink he knows to be incompatible with the paper he’s chosen, for example, drawing attention to the composition of the material.
He’ll then scan his photo and use search algorithms to generate similar results. With those, he’ll begin new pieces.
“There’s this idea of the image, of how it circulates through technological means to generate more images,” Nadeau says. “My work will grow always using an original image that gets blurred and recycled.”
The artist’s work will soon be on display in Missing. Repentless., an exhibition whose location is enticingly “unspecified” on his website.
In addition to photography, Nadeau also opened the publishing house soon.tw right after his first time through Concordia.
“Publishing books was something I’d had in mind for a while,” says the artist, who has recently edited his third publication. “It was a way to create opportunities and to approach people and open a conversation with them.”
That is exactly what he did with Jeanie Riddle, whose book was released by soon.tw in June 2016. Riddle attended the launch of Nadeau’s first book, a compilation of the work of Quebec City-based Jean-Philippe Harvey. Already a fan of her art, Nadeau found Riddle in the crowd and told her that he’d like to work with her.
The result was Other Desert Cities, a selection of impromptu snapshots Riddle had taken on her smartphone. With no narrative and very little text, the work lets the photos do the speaking. The way Riddle sees it, it’s like when authors publish books of their scribblings.
“For a lot of people, a smartphone becomes like a visual diary of your every day,” she says. “If you’re walking around, you come across something that illustrates what you’re thinking about: an architectural detail, a merging of colours and forms. Instead of sketching it on paper, you take a picture using your phone.”
She gave Nadeau a dossier full of these snapshots, and he curated them into a book.
Nadeau likes this method because he wants to show readers what inspires the products they only see once any trace of decision-making has been eliminated. Plus, he believes Riddle’s completed work is meant to be experienced in a gallery.
Although trained as a painter, Riddle now builds whole large-scale painting projects to showcase her art. Her most recent exhibit, for instance, Plier/Fold, comprised works that combined photography, drawing and sculpture. In an adjacent room, a video played of her daughter reciting a poem Riddle had written.
“My whole family life inspires my art,” the alumna says. “I like to use autobiographical narratives as a means of starting my work. It’s a way for me to resolve my own trauma, or it’s another way to start.”
Riddle says the sudden passing in 2008 of her husband, Keith Merritte, is the most relevant and consistent part of her artwork. He inspired Plier/Fold, the exhibit in which her daughter participated. Even so, Riddle and her muse and a fellow artist seldom collaborated in his lifetime. One of the few occasions was when she was at Concordia.
While earning her degrees, Riddle decided to create a work of art for every letter of the phonetic alphabet — “A” as in “alpha,” “B” as in “bravo,” and so on. She and Merritte collaborated on “T” for "Tango."
Using rose petals, Riddle drew a choreography across the gallery floor. To create an immersive experience, speakers played music her husband, a disc jockey, had written.
Riddle says, “It was one of the only times I was able to collaborate with my husband, even though he supported me always.”