• By: Dan Donovan

Martin Rondeau’s Confession Challenges the Taboo

From Édouard Manet to William S. Burroughs, art has had the ability to provoke and cause a stir among the general public. What is erotic, and what is simply obscene? Can anyone truly make an objective distinction between the two?

These are exactly the questions Martin Rondeau asks with his exhibition, Confession. Now on display at Ottawa’s Alpha Gallery, Rondeau’s latest work features nude photos cut by hand into strips, then reconstituted back into a whole image. The final product is a picture gaufrée, blurred and pixelated to obscure, and therefore challenge, the viewer on their preconceptions of the women they are viewing. It is a study of both our individual and collective perceptions of sexuality. We are only given an imperfect, waffled image because that is all we are able to understand. Rondeau’s art is shocking, because it is all to human.

“Art is an illusion: what you think you see is rarely its true form… or is it?” Rondeau explains.

On his artistic process, he says, “I use film, and I have to interweave it into patterns to get that dimensional effect. It’s a long process, but I love it. It’s exciting to see the end result,”

In Confession, Rondeau does not approach his study of the feminine with an agenda. As the collection’s title suggests, it is a cathartic admission of his obsession with beauty. The images included in the collection are not an enlightened meditation; rather, Rondeau approaches each image from his own perception. It is a study of the male imposition on the feminine, a questioning of his and society’s sexual taboos. Each art piece in Confession has the power to pull the viewer in, before making them ease back in thoughtful discomfort.  

“Scale is important to my work. The eyes are affected by it. What you see close up is not always the same as when you take a few steps back,” Rondeau says.

Rondeau began his career in photography in the fashion world. The industry, in both its commerciality and its aesthetic flare, served as a source of inspiration for the photographer. The world of fashion exists as part of the fast-paced metropolitan lifestyle, always pursuing the cutting edge. If fashion does not provoke, if it does not raise eyebrows, it is not doing its job. Increasingly, however, Rondeau noticed that as he assisted in fashion shoots around the world, the artistic approach his seniors were taking to their trade was no longer novel. It was old-school.

The pursuit of the provocative, something which is at the heart of of Rondeau’s former career as a fashion photographer, fuels his current artistic endeavours. He does not see himself as simply a photographer, but as an artist who can bring the mediums of photography, sculpting and painting into one unique product. With each woman that he photographs, he hopes to bring out the singular beauty that inhabits each one. Here, the relationship between artist and subject creates a paradox, presenting beauty as something that is both inherently social and strictly individualistic.

With Confession, Martin Rondeau once again appropriates the sleek flare of the fashion industry to his unique style of pop art. It can be shocking, daring you to look away, and welcoming, inviting you to stare. Truly, it is a study of sexuality for the modern world.

Confession is on display at the Alpha Gallery.