Jade Rude

You may not know Jade Rude but you’ve probably seen her work already. Her 2012 wall sculpture, You Look Great, a billboard-size of which was exhibited at Toronto’s Holt Renfrew, received various media coverage not common in the contemporary art world.

Some of the coverage offered: From a Toronto-based auction house: “Besides the fact that the sculpture is sexy and chic, any opportunity to feel self-critical (confronted with ones’ reflection) is bumped by the self-affirming slogan” (with which the auction house “fell-in-love”); from an online design guide, “both precious and bold”; from an online magazine, “Google Jade Rude if you want to feel a little better about yourself.”

The coverage may have given Rude quick public exposure, but in that it is antithetical to Rude’s own description of the work — “The chosen texts are self-reflective phrases that aim to heighten the viewer’s awareness of their participation” — and in so far as it instead reflected the auction house, the guide, and magazine and their audience’s desire to celebrate being not ‘self-critical’ and feeling ‘a little better about yourself’, it went to obscure the depth and philosophical inquiry embedded in the artist’s work. That the work meant to center on the viewer’s presence was understood and promoted as work that effaces the viewer is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rude’s portfolio, many of which use mirrors to make apparent what is often left unobserved: the audience and whatever bearing its presence might have on the artwork. That only a few, if not none, of the lauding promoters mentioned Rude’s various portfolio is telling. In this way, Rude’s mirrors reflect not only our times and culture but also exposed their thought processes.

Rude’s sculptures, photography, and text-based works have evolved both stylistically and conceptually since 2012. Her works, Russian Mountain, Safe Places, Form Less Form, among others, explore art and architecture, and form and space. The relationship between the relative permanence of objects and the impermanence of audiences and spaces (be it a gallery, a wall, etc.) is another subject Rude continually explores.

It is difficult to consider Rude’s works to be ‘audacious’ or ‘bold’, two adjectives that seem to dominate our contemporary art scene along with a spew of positive self-affirming ones. They are, instead, reflective, acts of deliberation on display in the gaps, the shapes, and the mirrors.

Interview Questions – Jade Rude

You work in various mediums including sculpture, installation, photography, etc. How would you describe yourself?

I am a conceptual artist who works in various medias. 
My artwork focuses on the sense of disorientation and instability that comes from testing the boundaries between visual perception and physical presence. The methods we use for recognizing objects, fabricating reality, and determining spatial relationships are open to interpretation.

Did you grow up in an artistic household?

I did not. However my parents were emotionally supportive, and ever since I could remember I was either drawing, painting or creating installations. I won my first art competition in the 3rd grade. The Alberta Public School Board requested all the students to select an image from the newspaper and interpret it in a creative manner. I selected an image of a building being demolished. I visually dissected the structure into many forms and lines. Later I realized that my style of this drawing related to Neoplasticism also known as the Dutch movement from 1917 called De Stijl. I have no memory of reading a book from the library, at that time, related to this particular movement but that is when I decided to become an artist.

You are interested in the way we occupy, understand, and perceive space as well as the mechanics of & the viewer’s active role in a successful trompe l’oeil or forced illusions such as trompe l’oeil, inversions and reversals. Have you always been interested in philosophy of space and perception?

Yes, I have always been interested in the philosophy of space. One of my favourite books is The Poetics of Space written by Gaston Bachelard (1884 – 1962), a philosopher who wrote 241 pages on the relationship between space, memory, and imagination.

What was the creative process behind Portrait of a Russian Mountain, as an Art Object?

Portrait of a Russian Mountain, as an Art Object is modeled after the first roller coaster built (17th century) called the Russian Mountain (ice on a mountain with sleds) and consists of nine track-like structures resembling sections of a roller coaster. The maximum height is 16 feet and is created from wood and gold acrylic mirror. This sculpture is unfixed therefore many different compositions are possible.

In Russian Mountain, as an Art Object, Not Yet Something, Colour Wheel, as well as in many others, there are mirrors. Could you tell us a bit about the many mirrors in your works?

I use mirrors and reflected surfaces in my artwork in order to highlight the awareness of the viewers’ participation — reflecting them as well as their surroundings. They become a participant with the artwork.

A rather loaded question: how would you describe the relationship between reality and representation? To what degree and to what end would you say our imagination plays a role in shaping or understanding reality?

Aristotle once said that that space is not “nothing” but a receptacle in which objects of matter can be placed. In my artwork I am interested in lending form to in-between spaces, negative spaces, shadows, and gaps in order to give importance to that which is normally overlooked and unacknowledged. By removing existing objects from the equation, their shadows become the focus of attention, transforming them into tangible objects and therefore revealing them as inseparable components of reality.

Are there other mediums you’d like to explore in the future?

I use whatever media I need to convey my concept. I am currently focused on non-static/unfixed forms, aiming to open up a conversation about the relationship between sculptural object, space, and form while destabilizing perceptions of two and three-dimensional space and diving further into considerations of what constitutes form and the degree to which an object or space can deny its apparent fixity.

Who and what are you reading these days?

I am currently reading Speaking of Art: Four Decades of Art in Conversation published by Phaidon Press Limited. It is one of the most extensive collections of recorded interviews with artists.