Queen's University — Since 1873
16th March 2012

Stringing past and present

Queen’s alumnus Jason Paradis’ new exhibit is inspired by Deadman’s Bay in Kingston

Jason Paradis, BFA ’95, belonged to the graduating class that voted in the name for Union Gallery.
Jason Paradis, BFA ’95, belonged to the graduating class that voted in the name for Union Gallery. (Justin Chin)

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New York-based artist and Queen’s alumnus Jason Paradis returned to Kingston on Wednesday to install his new time-twister of a show.

Combining works of art from his past and present, Dead Man’s Bay, opening at Modern Fuel, promises to be a sophisticated time machine of art.

Since graduating from the BFA program in 1995, Paradis received his MFA from Stony Brook University, and remained in Long Island, N.Y., to continue his work.

His exhibition at the contemporary downtown Kingston gallery marks his first time back since he was a Gael.

Dead Man’s Bay — originally inspired by the landscape at Deadman’s Bay, just east of Kingston — is a reflection on the work Paradis did as a student, in relation to what he’s doing now.

In the title piece, he literally connects his past and present — stringing together a painting he made during his third year at Queen’s to one that he finished on Monday night.

“This one here, to this one here,” he said, pointing to two starkly different images. “This’ll be connected with strings.”

On the one wall, a large wood-framed canvas depicts a fairly traditional painting of a landscape, — based on a photograph he took in his third year at Queen’s. The second half of the installation is hung across the room and shows a more distinct style than the first.

Paradis said that as a student, you start by pulling inspiration from other artists. Though thematically his works are very similar, he feels he has developed a stronger grasp on his own aesthetic.

He said he always starts with a template, something technical to build from.

In the second canvas of Dead Man’s Bay, Paradis used a website called Your Sky to recreate the night sky as it appeared 18 years ago on the night that he painted at Deadman’s Bay.

Each star will connect to one of the strings strung from the original painting. Those familiar with Paradis’ work will recognize the use of string from several of his other installations. As well, his fascination with the passage of time — toying with the intersection between his past, present and future — is consistent throughout his art.

“I don’t try to predict the future at all, I just try to sort of link my past to my present, hoping that will kind of forward the future,” he said, adding that though his artwork may look futuristic to some, it’s not necessarily intended that way.

“It always starts from the past.” Arriving in Kingston Thursday morning, he didn’t waste any time before re-rooting himself in the city.

“I’m still adjusting,” he said, and no wonder after landing at 1 a.m. “But it’s good, nostalgia is kicking in — Phase 2 is still there and A-One, and I just went to the Brewing Company for lunch.”

Perhaps in his most wistful flashback, Paradis went to revisit Deadman’s Bay. It was a professor at Queen’s who prompted him to explore the environment, which would continue to greatly influence his work.

“I was in my third year,” he said. “And I’m not sure if [professor] Jan Winton remembers this, but she actually said that I was too tight as a student, that I was working too tightly and that I needed to loosen up.

“It’s kind of a bizarre thing to do, but she sent me, she said, ‘don’t come back until you’ve loosened up … go out, go do whatever you need to do, but come back when you’re ready.’”

The canvas from the dual piece is the only painting left from the trip that will be exhibited at Modern Fuel. The exhibit features a total of seven pieces from his time as a Queen’s student.

When finished, the main space at the gallery will be decorated sparsely with large rocks and branches. Borrowed on his revisit to the site, it’ll hopefully help set the scene from Deadman’s Bay.

“What really intrigued me by [Deadman’s Bay] was that there were a number of people who died inside those ships that capsized,” he said, referring to the shipwrecks in the bay. “It’s supposed to be one of the big haunted spot in North America.

“On a clear day you can see the mast of the boat over the ice.”

Dead Man’s Bay is at Modern Fuel from March 17 to April 14.

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