On unexplored paths
GATINEAU | DECEMBER 2021
Franco-Ontarian painter Benjamin Rodger describes its development as a natural exploration. To be different from others, to find something new to say, and to contribute on his way to the international discourse of painting, it’s what motivates him day after day since his professional debut more than a dozen years ago.
Born in 1982 in Ottawa, Benjamin Rodger has always been immersed in art. He feels lucky to have been part of a family that encouraged creativity. For many people he studied with, he didn’t, he said. After attending the Center of Artistic Excellence of Ontario (De la Salle in Ottawa), a high school specializing in the arts, it was at the University of Ottawa and Concordia University that he pursued its formation. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts there in 2004 before completing a Masters at the National School of Art at Villa Arson in Nice, France, from 2005 to 2008.
He later returned to Canada, in Gatineau, where he still resides today. « At first, it was supposed to be temporary, but ultimately life is made like that, and I’m still there 12 years later. I found a workshop that I still occupy in the Old Hull district. This is also the area where I live, « explains the artist.
In addition to his career as a painter, he teaches arts at Cégep de l’Outaouais. « Since I came back to the region, I had the chance to exhibit on several occasions, both in groups and individually. I have also exhibited internationally. »
Benjamin Rodger‘s most recent exhibition, Wo bin ich ?, presented at Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau, is the result of a reflection initiated during a forum in which he participated in Germany during an artistic residency in 2015. This one shows the evolution of the artist over the years.
« When I was in Germany, I wondered where I was about my painting. I felt I was repeating myself. I was able to interact with several people, artists from all over the world, and work with them. It allowed me to recharge my batteries, move forward in my practice, and discover something else. »
On his return, the artist left aside figuration to explore abstract painting. At the Galerie Montcalm, he presented canvases painted on tape to seek out gestures with the arm and hand, movement, and lines. The tape is then removed and repainted with a roller. The sculptures come from the ribbon used for the canvases to demonstrate the process behind creating a work.
This gesture in the lines is also seen in an exhibition presented in 2020 and entitled Errances. The loneliness he felt during the pandemic inspired it. « It was a difficult time for a lot of artists. I was a little depressed myself, so I started going for walks. At one point, I thought to myself that maybe there was a way to do something about it, to use the creative energy that wasn’t exploited. I started plotting my course on a map and then on an app to reproduce it on a canvas. Some are square because the route takes place through streets and others are more abstract because of the winding layout of the cycle paths. »
Ateliers du Ruisseau
Another project has occupied Benjamin Rodger for several years, namely the construction of a building that will house some sixty artist studios in the heart of Old Hull. He is also president of the cooperative of Ateliers du Ruisseau, which carries this important issue for the artistic community of the Outaouais.
« We have the city on our side. We are in discussions with the three levels of government. We hope that this space can see the light of day within two to three years. In the meantime, we created temporary workshops in an already existing structure since many came to tell us that they now needed them. It’s crucial because many workshops are disappearing to make way for condos. By having their place, artists would no longer fear being kicked out. It is not a unique problem in Gatineau. It is widespread elsewhere as well, such as in Montreal and Toronto. This project has occupied a lot of my time for the past four years. «