“I think I am in search of a certain balance between control and detachment. I am constantly trying to distance myself enough from logic to achieve a state in which unconscious gesture plays a role in shaping form”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
EN: I was born in the South of France, and have been living in New York for nearly 13 years now. It’s a bit difficult for me to identify a precise reason that might have pushed me to start making art; I developed a strong passion for it as a child, which first manifested through drawing on the endsheets of books and slowly evolved to the work I’m making today.
AT: When did it become serious?
EN: When I moved to NY in 2008, I had no connections or friends, but luckily a few months after my arrival I got invited to participate to a small group show. There I met Tom Patoche, an intriguing sculptor and performance artist from Brooklyn. We became friends and realized that our studios were located just a few blocks away from each other, so later that summer we decided to organize an open studio exhibition together. Tom was friends with Evan Robarts, who was also living in our neighborhood, so we invited him to exhibit with us. The show went pretty well, I met interesting people and got my first press review.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
EN: My mother and my grandmother, who transmitted me their artistic sensibility while raising me – not an easy task because I was a very turbulent boy. Years later, Tom Patoche who I just mentioned above, introduced me to the NY art scene and taught me a lot. Some of the conversations we had 10 years ago are still influencing me today.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
EN: I start with a very specific subject that I use to invoke personal allegories or memories. I begin to sketch figurative compositions and degrade them with a certain logic of alteration. Through this process, the abstraction begins to subsume the subject’s literal meaning and reduces the figure to its symbolic dimension. These are the foundations that I use to support a second stage of mark-making, in which I compound multiple layers to the figures in an instinctive gesture. By distancing myself from the initial representational intention, a loss of control adds a level of codification tied to an unconscious impulse. Eventually, several layers or elements within the same piece interrelate and connect to each other in a fragile balance. I paint on raw canvas, which means that I can’t erase any lines and regions. This creates a certain tension in the process. Time can pass. I usually take a step back between layers, sometimes days. Regardless of the extent of abstraction of a given work, the figurative elements of the initial subject remain, degraded or transfigured.
Blue pruno blue, 2019 (Installation view).
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
EN: To me, the final purpose of making art is uncertain. I am fascinated by the Hermetic concept of chrysopoeia, the symbolic quest to complete the Great Work, in which the research itself ultimately becomes the real achievement. However, I’m happy if my work somehow resonates with the viewer, regardless how deeply they understand it. If they just find it pretty, that’s already an achievement.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
EN: I am interested in the integration of industrial objects with organic elements. For my paintings, I use gesso mixed with plaster and interior paint and various types of pigments and oils. My ideas dictate the materials I use for my sculptures. I often use construction material, assembled or connected with found objects. I like to use soap; I am fascinated by how it requires a precise chemical formulation which harbors a poetic symbolism, charting time through absence.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
EN: I think I am in search of a certain balance between control and detachment. I am constantly trying to distance myself enough from logic to achieve a state in which unconscious gesture plays a role in shaping form.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
EN: I can’t really define a precise rule for that. It just happens at a moment, an impression which can manifest itself at a very different stage of the process for each work. That is the possible reason why some of my works seem more elaborated than others. There is this exact point when I know that I did enough, even if the piece might seem unachieved in a practical perspective.
“Bodyweight training”, Gesso, acrylic, pigments, oil, canvas, 178x163cm, 2020.
“Bodyweight training”, Gesso, acrylic, pigments, oil, canvas, 178×163 cm, 2020.
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
EN: Alchemy and Hermeticism (the four stages of the Magnum opus, the Aurora Consurgens’s illuminations…), prison culture (alteration and misappropriation of everyday objects, secret codified forms of communication, bodyweight training and physical adaptation to confined spaces…), poetry (André Breton, Jean Cocteau…), greek mythology, the Tarot de Marseille’s symbolism.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
EN: Yes, many artists and for many different reasons: René Magritte, Gertrude Abercrombie, Robert Gober, Joseph Beuys, Mark Manders, Huma Bhabha, Joe Bradley, Josh Smith, Ida Ekblad, Yves Klein, Michael E Smith, Nicolas Lamas, Pablo Picasso, Nairy Baghramian, Matias Faldbakken, Oscar Tuazon, to name a few.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
EN: Social media is a very powerful tool for artists in terms of exposure and networking, but I am not very comfortable with the idea of revealing my life to strangers. However, I accept the Instagram game. Also I love memes and cat videos.
“Powerchtar pull-down 3000”, concrete, wood, bath towels, plaster, honey, copper, soap blocks, ropes — dimensions are variable, 2016.
“Pruno Hermetic (Orion contrapposto)”, Marble, painted terracotta, copper, concrete, grenada fruits, scorpion, honey, soap bars, sock, ropes, 2019.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
EN: There’s an intricate relationship between the art scene and the business world. However, I believe that some people are engaged in the system with a sincere approach. For instance, Rose Vickers and Domenico de Chirico are curators who often take the risk of pushing artists who they believe in, even if they are unrepresented. I strongly respect their enthusiasm for discovering and supporting new talents. They are amongst others who make me believe that the contemporary art system is not so bad.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
EN: The most daunting aspect to me is the feeling of being arbitrarily misjudged. The most rewarding part is when suddenly, the long invisible hand smoothly unlocks the window.
AT: What do you do besides art?
EN: I spend many hours listening to strange songs while driving in NYC late at night.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
EN: I hope for a happy, successful, long life full of art, love and cats.
Arcane XI (Installation view).
Édouard Nardon (b. 1978) is a French visual artist currently living and working in New York City, USA. His body of work, composed of paintings and site-specific sculptures, explores notions of material symbolism, temporal dimensions and memory. Nardon has participated in solo and group exhibitions internationally, including Lily Robert (Paris), Magic 175 (New York), Suprainfinit Gallery (Bucharest), and The Address (Brescia).