The Proust Questionnaire: Ron Terada
The Proust Questionnaire started as a late-Victorian parlour game, aimed at revealing key aspects of a person’s character. While still in his teens, author Marcel Proust answered a similar series of questions with such enthusiasm that, when the manuscript containing his original answers was discovered in 1924, his name became permanently associated with this type of informal interview. This is a modified version of the original questionnaire.
Since the 1990s, conceptual artist Ron Terada has worked in various media, including painting, installation, photography, signage, billboards, video and sound. Much of his work has been centred around typography and text – often set against one colour – that are explored through popular culture, conceptual art and social systems, to invite a new level of audience participation. Among the holdings of the National Gallery of Canada are paintings from his Jeopardy series (1997–99) and his Jack series (2010–17), as well as his neon sculpture It Is What It Is It Was What It Was (2008). His recent work TL; DR (2017) – internet shorthand for “too long; didn’t read”– transposes news headlines of the tech world onto canvas, as a means of suspending the language of our digital age of distraction.
Born in Vancouver, Terada studied both at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design and the University of British Columbia, and is the recipient of awards including the Canada Council for the Arts 2006 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award, Visual Art and the 2004 VIVA Award, Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts, Vancouver. He has exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit and at the Hayward Gallery Project Space in London, UK, among others. His most recent exhibitions include Political Affairs: Language Is Not Innocent at the Kunstverein in Hamburg in 2019, and Jack and the Jack Paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2018. He lives and works in Vancouver.
Your earliest memory of art:
When I was around 6 or 7 years old, I became obsessed with Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden’s “target mask” (created by James Homuth and Carl Lamb). I would try to draw Dryden endlessly with cheap blue and red ballpoint pens.
When you knew this would become your vocation:
I had just finished my third year at Emily Carr, and I was lucky enough to attend a summer studio program in New York for six weeks. The group made a visit to Haim Steinbach’s studio and afterwards I thought to myself, “I can do this.” Total eye-opener.
Your greatest influence:
My parents. They worked so hard and constantly.
Occupation you would have chosen (other than art):
Any kind of designer (graphic, industrial, interior, etc.).
Favourite pastime (other than art):
Following the Vancouver Canucks (50+ years of futility!).
Right now: Rei Naito and Ryue Nishizawa, Cady Noland, John Pawson.
Favourite writer and musician/composer:
Right now: Dave Chappelle, Larry David, Dan Bejar, Nick Cave, Johnny Jewel, Kevin Parker.
Favourite colour, flower and/or bird:
I don’t have a favourite colour, flower or bird; however, I am really into my Japanese Dwarf Maple – a Mikawa Yatsubusa – that's busting with shaggy green-gold leaves.
Favourite food and drink:
Steak and chips with a bottle of wine.
Favourite smell and sound:
The smell and sound of stove-top coffee brewing first thing in the morning.
During this COVID-19 lockdown, I’m cooking all the time, so I’m going to go with my stainless steel tongs by Sori Yanagi.
Favourite environment or landscape:
Any dark, lonely bar.
Favourite weather or season:
Favourite expression, catchphrase, proverb or word:
Really though... ? Is it though... ?
Dudes with long finger nails (hall pass if you play guitar).
Your definition of happiness:
Busy solitude. And hanging with my sweetheart, Joni.
Ideal place to live:
Anywhere not too cold nor hot and humid. I guess that’s Vancouver.
A recurring dream:
That I am still working at the art supply store across the street from the old Emily Carr University campus on Granville Island.
To stop having my recurring dream.
Aspirations before you die:
To witness the Canucks finally hoist the Stanley Cup.
To me art is (in five words or less):
For information on works by Ron Terada in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, see the online collection. Share this article and subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest Gallery news, and to learn more about art in Canada.