Nicolas Ranellucci graduated from the Université du Québec à Montréal in visual and media arts. His work is represented by Galerie Dominique Bouffard; he lives and works in Montreal.
Why did you choose painting as your medium?
One day I was doing graffiti with my friends, having fun, vandalism and everything, and I got into a bar and there was live painting. I discovered that we could work on a canvas and create a universe. I really got excited about it. The next day I bought canvas and paint and brushes and I started to have fun. And then I was pretty much serious about it.
What are your influences?
My influences are mostly from the Renaissance and from the Middle Ages, from Italy. But the whole history of painting is quite an influence for me. Part of my work is to recreate details from old school masterpieces.
What challenges you, as an artist?
An artist who challenges me, maybe God? No, probably all the artists from my generation, I think that’s the best answer I can say about my challenges.
What about outside visual art?
Outside visual art, I’m a cook. I ‘ve realized that cooking is a part of me, because cooking is taking something—an ingredient—and transforming it to create a plate that’s interesting, and that’s pretty much what happens with a canvas.
Does your work follow a recurring theme or story?
I think it’s really important to have many canvasses that tell a general story about a precise thing that I thought about. In my last solo, I created all my canvasses about a story. There is something about cinema that I really like—perceiving an image in time. I like that time goes by in a painting, and I try to recreate that. All the paintings on the wall make a big story. I like to think that the viewers will integrate into the story of the painting, they’ll have to—they can’t get out of it.
Does theory inform your work?
Well, it’s really interesting when, before going to sleep, you read theory, and then you fall asleep and everything is all right. You are getting more intelligent in your dreams, because you just read theory. But I never really try to take theory and apply it to my work. I think theory is more about history. I don’t think it is a part of artists’ work.
What are you ideal working conditions?
I need to have music. Music is a big part of my inspiration, as you’d say. It’s part of my atmosphere. And a painting studio and myself and that’s it. I think it’s really important to be concentrated. You have to get your focus. And lights—lights are very important.
What do you think this year’s RBC Painting Competition short list says about art in Canada?
I think it shows that we have big painters in Canada and we know how to paint, and Canada is the best.
Is there something distinct about Canadian painting?
I don’t think there’s Canadian painting or Canadian art, I think there’s painting and there’s art. Everybody’s doing what they think is the best. Does it mean if you’re Canadian it’s something else? I know there’s a generation of young people from Winnipeg, like Marcel Dzama. They came back with this old school way of making sculpture or drawing. I really like it. This is probably a way that Canadian could be looked at—people who work with a lot of crafty things.
This interview has been condensed and edited for publication. See all fifteen finalists at TheWalrus.ca/cpc.