A Glimpse Inside Réal Calder’s Mont-Saint-Hilaire Studio
Across the shore from the island of Montreal is the picturesque city of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, where the painter Réal Calder lives and works. Being greatly inspired by the landscape that surrounds him, Calder discusses how he makes art and what motivates him to create.
Artogone: How would you describe your work environment?
Réal Calder: It is a workplace that is both separate from the world and completely my own. It is a place that allows me to carry out a complex creative process while being supported by the pleasure of imagination.
What does a typical day in your studio look like?
I make my way to the studio around 8:30 am every morning from Monday to Friday and leave around 5 pm. I start with a daily ritual of playing music on a loop and preparing my palette for the day. This can take one to two hours to complete, depending on the day and the size of the artworks in progress. I also take this as a moment to determine the color scheme of the piece I have planned to work on.
I then start the painting process by standing in front of the canvas, working quickly, violently covering the surface with large brushstrokes, spatters, and dashes of paint to create the overall effect of the artwork. At this stage, the work is already advanced. I therefore leave the studio to let the paint layer set superficially and to take a step back from what has been achieved.
In the early afternoon, I resume my work by adding superimpositions of transparent glazes, modifying and specifying certain parts of the painting. At the end of the day, I wash the brushes and spatulas and save the remaining paint for the next day.
What can you typically feel, hear or even smell inside your workshop?
The workshop has a ventilation system that evacuates paint odors, but as the day progresses and depending on the size of the paintings, a faint smell of linseed oil, turpentine and alkyd is released into the space. This smell is important to me as it participates in the creation of a timeless space where the present communicates with the past: the smell reminds me of my childhood, having started to paint with oil at a very young age. Moreover, this impression of timelessness is accentuated by the same music that plays in a loop all day long and that I listen to repeatedly over a period of several months.
Tell us about your artistic approach. Do you sometimes work from photos or sketches?
My approach to painting aims to recreate the feeling of being present in the landscape: both sinking into the materiality of the world and into an exteriority that surpasses us. I try to emulate the mobility of the gaze, as well as the ebb and flow of continuity and discontinuity that characterizes the landscape. This is why a disruptive effect is produced by juxtaposing and overlapping various flowing or loose markings, oscillating between depth and surface.
Thus, the means of realism (forming and shaping) as well as the means of lyrical abstraction (gestures and stains) are present in order to translate the complexity of our relationship with nature. I sometimes use photos in reference to specific places, but generally I work from personal memories of landscapes I have travelled through or I amalgamate different places. My artworks are created in 3 or 4 steps during which it can be altered slightly or completely. This is why I work on several paintings simultaneously.
What is your relationship with nature as an artist?
My relationship with nature is essential for my painting and for my personal balance. I live close to Mont Saint-Hilaire, where I walk every day, rain or shine. My relationship with the landscape is characterized by an oscillation between feelings of anxiety and wonder that come with a sense of belonging to nature.
Have you noticed any changes in your approach to artistic creation over the years?
The more time goes by, the deeper my commitment to painting becomes. I paint according to the impulse of the moment, following the rise of a wave from the depth that pushes the image, between form and formlessness, towards the surface of the visible. The painting is the result of this journey and the pleasure of staying for a few moments on the crest of the wave.
Discover the artworks currently available in the artist’s studio: