It’s October 2 and the Washington D.C. area is experiencing the tail end of a hurricane. It’s wet, rainy and cold and it’s been like this for five whole days.
Fortunately I had the opportunity to brighten this week by sitting down with Andrea Pollan, Owner and Director of the Curator’s Office, and with artist Nicholas Pye at her new venue that is her home and now exhibition space. Driving up to her house was familiar, as it resembled the home that we are currently living in just several minutes away by car. Entering it was a different story. Andrea and her artist husband Jeff Spaulding have been spending the past two years renovating the 1950’s split level ranch home to be airy, modern and full of light. Andrea organized the space well with the upstairs as the living area showcasing many of the artists she represents, and the downstairs, as her exhibition space. Formerly occupying a small space at 14th and U, this new space is a big change for Curator’s Office where exhibiting floor works is now a possibility. This is where we all sat down to speak about Nicholas Pye’s current exhibition “Rise and Fall”.
And what about this “Rise and Fall”?
“For me it’s about the light. It’s also about a rebirth.”
Two years ago Nicholas and his former wife and art partner Sheila parted ways. Since then he has been working solo and this path he’s taken he claims, “is much more intuitive” and he’s found the love in his process again. Expressing very candidly the challenges of working collaboratively with ones romantic partner, he also impressed upon the fact that he’s open to making work with Sheila again if that opportunity arose. For now, he feels liberated and free to work individually on what inspires him as an independent artist.
Last winter he spent time at a monastery in France where a performance based residency is housed. Nicholas explains how he spent his time not only studying the specificity of the winter light at this particular location, but also really engaging in the practice of patience. It became an endeavor to be more present and observant in his current surroundings. This carried forth to another, although unofficial residency at a castle in Ireland. Here Nicholas began to respond to the individual space, both in its physical architecture as well as the changing light. He invented scenes based on his emotional and psychological interpretation of each room.
At first he started to photograph the space alone. As time passed, he eventually put himself back in. He questioned this pull to include himself in the scene and he realized, “I guess I wanted to perform…it’s performative, using the body as a gestural form.”
The choice to be nude or clothed is also a response to the present mood of the space. His intention as a keen observer is to capture that moment. A square photograph features him at a desk staring out onto an expansive green space harking back to former themes of power that he used to explore heavily when he was still collaborating with Sheila. Nicholas calls them ‘a future narrative’ — a mood of anticipation or something that’s about to happen. There is a tense atmosphere in these photographs where the beauty is almost too much to handle and perhaps why the images are so alluring.
Nicholas embraces the world as his studio where he carries his equipment in a backpack and simply heads out like an explorer to find the next story to stage and photograph or videotape. He returns to his home base that is a live work loft in Toronto, Ontario. Back in the ‘office’, he spends much of his time for the post-production work that includes all the editing and printing involved in this process and where he also stages and creates performative video works. See “Self Portrait at 37” along with other video pieces that can be watched from his website at nicholaspye.com .
By embodying these spaces for the lens, I create works that reflect the psychological nature between presence and absence. This is realized through the representation of what the light reveals in the frame, what darkness obscures, and by how much the figure wittingly divulges for us.
Nicholas teaches half time as an Assistant Professor of Art at the Ontario College of Art and Design. His solo show “Rise and Fall’ at Curator’s Office is on view by appointment until Saturday, November 21. A limited edition artist book is also available for this exhibition.