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INTERVIEW | Artist Nigel Nolan Talks About Triple Slash: ///, A Multimedia Project That Will Launch June 28 For Pride

By Anya Wassenberg on June 21, 2024

L: Painting by Canadian visual artist Nigel Nolan; R: poem by American poet Cody Laplante (Images courtesy of the artists)
L: Painting by Canadian visual artist Nigel Nolan; R: poem by American poet Cody Laplante (Images courtesy of the artists)

Canadian visual artist Nigel Nolan and American poet Cody Laplante began an online friendship and collaboration that would become a multimedia art project. Triple Slash: ///  will be unveiled in full on Pride Weekend, June 28, at IDFK gallery in Toronto, and in Dover, New Hampshire at Wrong Brain, a semiannual pop up celebration.

The painter and poet’s friendship and collaboration unfolds on screen, in a doom scrolling format that fits the time. Interspersed with their text communications are poetry, paintings, and videos that combine imagery and electronic music by various artists.

The conversation begins in the middle of the collaboration, then moves back and forth, as the two move around the world separately. It’s an intimate portrayal of queer friendship that exposes vulnerabilities, and deals with love, death, addiction, sex, fear, and other themes that weave themselves in and out of both their conversations and their work.

It takes 2 hours-plus to experience all of it. At the launch event in Toronto, a 360-degree projection of the work will scroll by on the walls. After the launch event, it will be available to view online free here.

L: Artist Nigel Nolan; R: Poet Cody Laplante (Photos courtesy of the artists)
L: Artist Nigel Nolan; R: Poet Cody Laplante (Photos courtesy of the artists)

Nigel Nolan: The Interview

“It started with Cody reaching out to me to do a collaboration,” Nolan recalls. “I was wary about jumping into a collaboration right away.” But, Laplante’s work sealed the deal. “I liked his poetry, and he seems to like my work.”

The deal was to correspond and gather content during the course of a year. And gather they did. The piece juxtaposes their conversations with the poetry, paintings and video, offering a glimpse inside the creative process.

The content in the piece was actually culled over a two year period, although most of it came from the second year of their collaboration. In an era when public personas are carefully cultivated, the raw intimacy and realism of their relationship comes as striking.

“I think that us being connected, but not being part of each other’s social circles, it allowed for […] intimacy,” Nigel says. There was no fear of exposure. “There’s also a lack of judgment.”

It was something that didn’t necessarily come easily to the artist. “I’m typically a very private person,” he says. It was Cody’s willingness to expose his vulnerability and disclose his real life experiences that encouraged him to do the same. “It added a kind of one upmanship between us,” he laughs. “It also allows for shame to dissolve.”

L: Painting by Canadian visual artist Nigel Nolan; R: poem by American poet Cody Laplante (Images courtesy of the artists)
L: Painting by Canadian visual artist Nigel Nolan; R: poem by American poet Cody Laplante (Images courtesy of the artists)

Doom Scrolling

The format is definitely of the times, and meant to be viewer-friendly. “I wanted to kind of also make a friend of the reader,” he says.

Scrolling, as he points out, is a constant detail of everyday life. The project gives viewers the impression they’re simply taking in the digital timelines of someone’s life.

“I wanted to align with that.”

It was something of a challenge to put together in technical terms, including all the multimedia elements, and the videos in particular. “The closest thing that is to is a book, but it’s not a book.”

It does serve as a kind of documentation of a queer friendship. If viewed on a laptop or desktop, the outline of the pages is apparent, in a combination of document/scrolling timeline. The effect is quite absorbing, and striking visually, in a way that is organic and sometimes messy — like real life, rather than the shiny Photoshopped (or AI) images we’ve become used to seeing on a daily basis in contemporary culture.

“We’re in a culture of sharing that’s quite curated,” he points out. “We show highlights of our lives.” Triple Slash /// aims to show it all. “These are actual correspondences going back and forth.” It’s a chronicle, as he calls it, of actually three lives during the two-year period. The third is Kate, who interacts with both of them. The messiness and gritty bits are the point. “That really shows a truth.”

That truth is not just the piece itself, but a look at what goes on behind the curtain to produce it. “I’ve always been interested in the life experiences, the true life experiences that make the art.” Experience, as he notes, is the catalyst to making art. “In a way, it offers a window behind the making of the art.” It’s also the kind of candour and intimacy that can only happen when people are on opposite sides of the world.

Nolan’s paintings are colourful and full of motion. “The paintings are based in expressionism, and they’re based in colour. They’re a response in many ways to my own life experiences, but also to Cody’s life and voice,” he says. “I’m a big fan of mark making, to see the hand. The return to the mark and the individualism associated to the mark, it’s important to me,” he adds.

As the two friend go from South America to Europe to North America, exchanging messages and their art, the communication takes on a life of its own. “In many ways, it’s how the works speak together, or could speak to each other, but they never come together,” Nolan says.

“The project is really in the creative aspect — the poetry and the painting — the video work has a foundation in painting and paint.”

It’s a very contemporary format for expression that centres the humanity and creativity of its participants.

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