Steven Rhude was born in Rouyn Noranda, Quebec in 1959. His father was a Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot and traveled extensively throughout Canada before settling his family in Scarborough, Ontario. In Scarborough, Steven was raised, educated and studied civil engineering at Centennial College. After one year he switched to the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto where he studied fine arts and graduated in 1983 with honors in drawing and painting.
It was at OCAD that Steven was introduced to the pantheon of draughtsmen from Ingres to American modernists like de Kooning. Teachers such as Fred Hagen, John Gould and John Newman instilled in Steven the relevance of drawing as a complete form of expression in itself. Steven also attended the college's off campus program in Florence, Italy for one year which included an intensive study of the Italian and Northern European renaissance. This year of study was made possible by receiving the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation award.
Afterwards, he met Simone Labuschagne and they were married in 1986. Over a period of three years Steven worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario as a technician installing exhibitions, an experience he still recalls with appreciation due to first hand contact with master works of all kinds.
In 1990, Steven began to devote himself to drawing and painting full time. He and his wife moved to Fox Island Main, Guysborough, County, Nova Scotia. It was there, in relative isolation, that Rhude developed the realistic and colorful style he is known for today. Art critic Elissa Barnard stated that in his work “Rhude has grappled with and further developed his subject matter, maintaining his engaging style but deepening his ideas and calling on the viewer to put more thought into the work and the plight of coastal communities in Atlantic Canada."
Recently Rhude has been part of two major provincial shows at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia highlighting contemporary artists: “Capture, 2014”, a Survey of Realism, and in 2016, “Terroir”, a survey of contemporary Nova Scotian Art. His work can be found in numerous private, public and corporate collections around the world. Steven's work has been reproduced in various publications, including on the cover and inside the 2009 book "from Land and Sea - Nova Scotia's Contemporary Landscape Artists" and the 2010 coffee table book "A Place Called Away - Stephen Rhude, Living and Painting in Nova Scotia."
The ontology of place and home have never been so hotly contested as during these times of austerity budgets and cutbacks. Loss, departure, and out migration, are recurring themes in the "post-cod" world of Nova Scotia. Indeed, we have much in common with the other three Atlantic provinces in this respect. Today, Nova Scotia is a world that can be seen and understood for many, as an alien, impractical and progressively stressful space to live in. It is one of “Camp communities” and transience, fuelled by job losses, global pressures, and resource dependencies. A reconceptualization of loss as a central and explicit component of a “post cod” world, can be seen by the local person and the transplanted alike, people that have been assimilated into what we have come to know as mobile communities. They see it when going to a Tim Hortons, or when their local Lighthouse has been decommissioned. It is visible when American Target Stores in Canada are closed, or likewise, local schools are shuttered and consolidated. The oscillations of gain and loss, have become a shared recollection of our global susceptibility.
My desire has always been to use painting to examine the post-cod world and the vernacular associations that come with it. The realist canon has provided me with the inspiration and latitude to pursue the subject form of such assorted displaced objects ranging from food, buoys and gas pumps, to bakelite radios and telephones. Intent on revealing the precariousness of our Nova Scotian condition, my imagery implies that the protagonist's strengths are more than just superficial, and questions whether the object viewed may have more than just utilitarian characteristics.
My painting can be a way of examining something serious, and at the same time, serving up a diet of satire and irony for visual consumption and consideration. Irony being a very important part of the post-cod diet, concerns itself with loss and redemption. Such content enables me to come to an acceptance of loss (such as change, and out migration) and then, through my art, create a space in which one might turn meaning of place into a visual ethic of art and message, allowing the artist voice to be heard. Without an acknowledgement of loss, the first principle in a sensible exchange on the purpose of place, we inadvertently, and perhaps ironically, cultivate a base reducing place to a trans-national trading post, where community meaning is drowned out by the clatter of regional descent and moving trucks.
Steven's work was part of the exhibition "Searching for Realism" and documentary that takes you for a tour of Nova Scotia into the studios of some of the area’s best artists and celebrates contemporary realism in Nova Scotia.
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