Conversations

Terroir Q&A Series: Steven Rhude

Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey is on view until January 15, 2017, and before this popular exhibition comes to a close, lets continue to reflect on the work and practice of the 29 exceptional artists found in this exhibition. We hope that you have a chance to get out to the Gallery and experience Terroir again, or for the first time and remember the gorgeous exhibition publication is now available for sale at the Gallery Shop.

Steven Rhude's Terroir Q&A provides insight into his practice and his connection to Nova Scotia that inform his work in this exhibition. For more information about Rhude's practice visit http://srhude.blogspot.ca/

What is your connection to Nova Scotia, and why were you inspired to submit a work for this exhibition?

Connection is an interesting word since I wasn’t born here, but have lived in Nova Scotia since 1990. However, my thoughts continue to focus on a desire to trace the ​ca​u​sation for being connected here, and the reasons for having to adapt to such a painfully beautiful place. In endeavouring to do so, it may be that it has as much to do with the qualities inherent in me, as to the actions of external conditions. Like plants, one must possess adaptive capacities.

My ancestors were loyalist - expelled to Nova Scotia with a destination to usurp Acadian land near Annapolis Royal. A love story developed between Jacob Rhude and Margaret Tripp at sea and they were married with salt water under their feet rather than soil. They never made it to Annapolis Royal - rather, they were abandoned with other passengers in Shelburne County to fend for themselves as unknown quantities; which they did, eventually settling in Guysborough County.

Terroir strikes me as the most significant and inclusive concept to directly explore our art and culture in a long while. It was my hope that my practice was relevant to this unique narrative, hence my submission.

Can you tell us a little about your work that is on view?

Hypothesis (now that the man in the cod’s eye has been revealed):
He is a post cod man looking into the eye of his time. He recollects, yet can’t quite fathom what has happened. The cod looks back, yet mirrors the image of the post cod man. The man is perplexed, he wants to look into the soul of the cod, yet he can’t.

The cod has no view on the issue of its possible extinction resulting from man’s failability and greed. However, the post cod man continues to stare and eventually sees through the eye into himself. He sees a once great collective agreement between man and ocean, reduced to a Recreational Groundfish Fishery each summer. The post cod man is nervous.

He takes a picture of the cod, fillets the cod and celebrates the great cod with a last supper of sorts. He then makes a painting of the cod with the image of the post cod man mirroring his predicament. The cod does not die though.

Rather, it lives in the post cod man as he grapples with the image of his time through a fish’s eye he concluded long ago has no soul - because he can’t see it. However, the man must now contend with the responsibility within him, placed there by the presence of the cod mirroring man’s extinction. The post cod man has no choice - the cod has spoken.

Your work is on view along with 28 other artists. How do you see your work within the context of this group exhibition?

T​wenty nine artists is a lot - a lot of art for anyone to engage with in one visit. That may be why I find the show so stimulating. I’ve returned to view the show four times now and the work continues to offer surprises. In​ wine parlance there is also a term called ​"epigenetic" - it refers to that which is formed later than the surrounding or underlying rock formation. In terms of context this may be a thread I see as I look around at the work of the other artists in the exhibit.

What are truly the artist's habitat and conditions? And what does it mean to contextualize one’s art with one’s topography, be it personally or in a more global way? What is the artist’s climate and surroundings? What does the artist remove, and what does the artist retain? As I see Terroir, these were some of the questions I found myself asking as multiple narratives developed for me. Although a floor apart from my painting, Anne Macmillan’s​ For the Trees video struck me as pertaining to macro issues of extinction and preservation, a similar thread in my painting of post cod. Although our media is vastly different in terms of visual capabilities, a comparative narrative is established. How could this have been foreseen? Perhaps only where artists making art in a markedly new way, are standing shoulder to shoulder with artists honouring past traditions.

What are you working on in now, or planning for the near future?

I’m continuing to explore the effects of both internal and external forces on communities - not just in Nova Scotia, but Newfoundland as well. I will also continue to collaborate with Laura Kenney, Rug Hooker on contemporary issues that inspire us.

I recently completed a painting on the film tax credit debacle in Nova Scotia titled​ House of Film. What I’ve tried to be prepared for in the broader terms of painting, are social issues, and a viable cultural connotation that conveys the sense of why it is we often do the wrong thing when the right thing was so obvious.

House of film was actually a literal house being demolished in Chester, Nova Scotia. It struck me at the time how fragile our cultural house could be in light of the bureaucratic realities of those in power. Theories of exodus and out migration can be both externally forced or self imposed. This is part of the post cod climate we currently experience here in Nova Scotia.

How has your artistic process developed over time? What informs your practice?

My process has been determined by the Eurocentric tradition I was educated in. Although I question the colonial presence of it in everything from figurative, to landscape, to still life painting, I still consider it an informed pictorial language -beleaguered, but not something I’m prepared to abandon. Another tracing of causation.

When I was young and image greedy I carried my art in a bucket, sloshing it all over. Now I move carefully with it balanced in a teaspoon. I’ve become more reliant on the square (a rectangle without the hassle) for my compositions over the last few years. I continue to read, develop files, take photos, and make drawings in Gerald Ferguson’s ​The Standard Corpus of Present Day English Language Usage arranged by word length and alphabetized within word length. Since I was a child I’ve loved drawing over pages of text - a somewhat subversive practice, but my way of layering narrative in preparation for the final image.

I like to check my art, expose it if possible to determine what the response might be. I need the latitude to paint without being pressured to conform to some kind of market template - that was never my reason for entering this discipline. I continue to be informed by that which is revelatory: aesthetics, social and ecological philosophy, and the sensuousness of the world we inhabit.

When you’re not working, what are activities/interests that inspire your practice?

Good question, because I maintain that silence is an activity. It strikes me that in my particular discipline, a work of art is always in a state of production, not just when one executes the final work in a studio , but well before, and even after it is installed in some form of environment.

I may be walking the dykelands in search of the ghost of Evangeline with my black lab Hagrid, or hiking out at Blomidon looking for native stone carvings with hidden faces in them, but the reality exists for me that there is a spiritual, social, and historical context at every point of an art work’s evolution. Post modern life is quickly closing the door to active silence. Yet, it’s only later on, after silence opens the door to imagination, that we acknowledge this is an essential part of the the artist’s discipline. I have to be conscious of this and maintain this principle of receptivity when I’m not actually working on a painting.

Image Credit: 

Steven Rhude, Post Cod
Image: Courtesy of the artist.