Brian Rideout (Toronto, 1986)
Lives and works in Toronto

When did you start painting? How was your work at the beginning of your practice?

I have always painted my whole life. My dad was a hobby painter and worked in design so design, drawing, painting, art history, were always around the house. I didn’t have my first real training until I was already at school thinking I wanted to become an illustrator. Once I got my first painting training and got exposed to a bit more art history I quickly realized that what I really wanted was to be a painter and an artist and work within that community. I was initially making these big collage drawings with lots of content in them but over time things simplified and focused on the single image and how it relates to an image beside it and how the act of painting it pulls it into dialogue with a whole history of related images.

Can you tell me about your early influences in art? How did you first become interested in architecture and interiors?

Pictures have always been my influence in art. I came very quickly to the decision that there was little difference between learning about the history of the world through looking at pictures of paintings in a book and looking at pictures of the world around me in books. So I’ve always been interested in records and books of pictures, anything that organizes ideas through the use of images. I’ve pretty much always taken my inspiration – or rather my content – from printed material. The architecture and interiors came about very naturally in that kind of research. I think what I realized and what others have realized is just that these types of images have so much to give in terms of information and description of a certain time, place, feeling. They are a representation of something that has been seen less of nowadays in the guise of painting.

Modern art plays an important role in your work. In a sense, you are reproducing works of modern art within your work. Even the titles of your American Collection Paintings include the names of the artists whose works are featured. I’m curious about your selection process.

The first image to spark this idea was from an interior design book of offices. There was a design studio that had a collection that reminded me of Matisse’s The Red Studio (1911) (which became Drawing Room Interior(2014)).

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Henri Matisse, The Red Studio 1911
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Drawing Room Interior, 2014

I had already been looking earlier at some auction catalogues and seeing their display of people’s collections that were for sale and thinking about that as a great historical document (see Dans la Maison (2010).

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Dans la Mason (study for ACP 18), 2010

Then I started to see a broader connection to a whole history of interior spaces and collections that had been documented as paintings throughout history – there are these great Baroque paintings from the 1600s where the ruling class would have their entire collections documented as paintings.

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David Teniers the Younger, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his Gallery in Brussels c.1651

The works that are in these contemporary collections now, function as it did then, describing a whole set of terms and values about this era. In terms of Modern art, and specifically the Abstract Expressionist work, it’s important to see this work in situ and see how the context of the work changes its role as a conceptual object and also as an object of value in the market place.

What about modern design? In some of your paintings, statement furniture pieces by well-known architects and designers appear. I’ve noticed that when it comes to interiors, modern art and modern design usually come together. Is it connecting both something you intentionally look for when choosing which image are you going to work with?

I definitely am way more versed with the art history than the industrial design, but as you say they really do come hand in hand. That speaks to the bigger historical lineage that these paintings are a part of. Paintings for most of history have really been about the kind of people who can afford paintings.

I think there are a lot of different things that people with different specializations and interests can read into this series of paintings.

Besides working with vintage decor magazines, do you work with any other sources?

I am very discerning when it comes to my source selection process, but not so much when it comes to collecting images. They can be anything. The important thing is to keep my eyes open. Then the challenge is editing. I have thousands of images of interiors and the process becomes picking the ones that have all the qualities of a good painting before I even start.

The subject of some of your works, such as Rothschild Villa, Corfu (2017), Ceremony (2016) The Bathers (2016) and Plant Painting 1 (2015) seem to differ from one another and, they also seem to be unassociated from your American Collection Paintings. Can you tell me more about those paintings? What are your sources?

I am always interested in the function of an image and how it relates to a long lineage of images created throughout history, either as art or as a commercial product. Although the American Collection Paintings have been my most successful series of paintings, I am interested in finding contemporary connections with all the different genres of paintings from history. The Bathers (2016) for example was as simple as coming across an image that was so directly in dialogue with a whole series of pictures over the course of history with that title (or similar) depicting that same motif, of people bathing. Or in the case of Ceremony (2016) to see how a representation of a Catholic church ceremony looks today. In that sense, I can source from anywhere. All images can be judged on their importance and relevance to the greater history of image as communication. Over the course of time, these other series of paintings will come more clearly into focus the way the American Collection Paintings have.

You are creating an amazing on-going archive of paintings that document time and space from a particular departure. Do you consider your paintings as documentation for future generations?

That is very nice of you to say. That is really my main goal. I think that is the essential function of art. I think that has been the function of images since humans started making them. Images are so uniquely qualified to communicate over time and space. I’ve always loved the story that the reason the Catholic church was such a proponent and innovator in painting, from say 1300-1800ish, was that they were dealing with a mostly illiterate public who were losing interest in the stories of the Bible.

I have learned the history of humanity through the images that have been created along the way and I want to be a part of that history going forward.

What do you think influences your work the most at this moment?

Right now other painters are my biggest influence. El Greco, Goya, Morandi, Fairfield Porter, Guston, Hockney, Tuymans, to name a handful. There’s a certain line and mark that I’m really interested in right now – something loose but perfectly descriptive. I’m always looking back into history trying to see that throughline, seeing how painters have developed and built on what has come before them.

February 2019 | Brian Rideout Exclusive for June Joon Jaxx
Images courtesy of the artist.