Stingers’ Soccer Player Alexandre Nay Breaks the Divide

Nay on the Divide Between Art and Sports

Stingers soccer defender Alexandre Nay aspires to be a graphic designer. Photos Alexander Perez

Athletes aren’t usually considered to be the artistic type, yet Stingers soccer player Alexandre Nay shatters that notion.

A third-year student in the Concordia fine arts program and a defender for the school’s men’s soccer team, Nay has been able to juggle both his artistic career and his passion for the sport.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was six, so it’s been 17 years,” Nay said. “I’ve been drawing before I was playing soccer when I was a kid, and I just never stopped.”

Originally, Nay had planned to follow in the steps of his sister and become an architect, but these plans quickly changed soon after he saw what the work was like. It just wasn’t something that had appealed to him, Nay explained. This realization pushed him to pursue studio arts and enroll in Concordia’s fine arts program.

“Art was something that was necessary for me,” said Nay. “When I don’t play soccer, I feel the need to play, and when I’m not drawing, I feel the need to draw.”

It was clear that some of Nay’s work still had some architectural influence. One of his projects was comprised of two pieces put together to form a sphere; one half was very geometric, neat and symmetrical, while the other half of was a bit more abstract. Nay himself described his art style as being versatile.

“This past year, I’ve been trying to do more bodies and portraits,” Nay explained. “I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know how to do portraits, so I’ve been trying to expand my horizons.”

Most of the time, Nay’s work is colourless—portraying emotions of sadness and guilt—as he takes away from his surroundings. “In San Francisco it’s very sunny, but here it’s very grey all year long except for three months out of the year,” Nay explained, comparing Montreal to the city he was raised in. Scandinavian film is another inspiration behind his work, with its dark settings similar to Montreal’s appearance during the winter season.

One of Nay’s projects involved body deformations.

Like his approach to his art, Nay is versatile on the field as well, alternating between right-back and centre-back on defense.

When asked what his playing style was like, Nay chuckled a little bit before answering. Having grown up in parts of Europe and in San Francisco, Nay had the opportunity to train in both of the different playing styles of soccer that these regions have to offer.

“In Europe you get more technical training where you get comfortable with the ball. In the US you get more physical, like focusing on going fast.” Personally, Nay stated that he prefers the more technical European way of playing.

His parents—both of whom currently reside in San Francisco—have been some of his biggest supporters in soccer and in art. Interestingly enough, his parents represent the best of both worlds; Nay’s mother Carole Neilson is an artist who’s been focusing her work on ceramics, whereas his father is the one who is passionate about soccer and encouraged his son to continue playing.

“We have three kids, and Alex is the middle one,” Neilson said. “My husband and I, we help them whenever they need it.”

Although Nay’s parents are on the other side of the continent in the US, they still do whatever they can to show their support for their son.

“We are on their side being very supportive of the things they decide to do. I think in life, you just need to have energy and be passionate about something,” she said.

“When I don’t play soccer, I feel the need to play, and when I’m not drawing, I feel the need to draw.” — Alexandre Nay

Aside from his folks, Nay also finds familiarity and support in his teammate and best friend, Olivier Georges. “I just show him my art and he doesn’t understand how I can do that,” said Nay. “He’s always surprised at what I can do and he pushes me.”

Like his friend, Georges is in a similar situation—captaining the Stingers while also playing on defense, and pursuing a love for his music.

Georges currently plays the bass guitar and sings for his punk-rock band Young Empathy—which he’s been a part of for about four years now—inspired by bands like Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Blink-182. “I’ve always liked punk-rock,” Georges said. “I remember listening to it in high school and thinking ‘Yeah, that’s the life. That’s what I wanna play’—I liked the chaos and the pace, and the realness of the lyrics.”

Recounting the day that he and Nay first found out about one another’s artistic backgrounds, Georges fondly smiled. “I had gone over to his place and saw a Gibson SG in his room, just a beautiful guitar. And he played a little and we found out that we both love music.”

Georges explained that Nay tends to downplay a lot of his artwork but he’s always impressed to see what he’s done. Even though Georges isn’t too knowledgeable about art, he enjoys having Nay explain his process for his art projects. “He takes the time to explain to me how he does stuff, and I like that. I like to understand.”

As a soccer player, Georges described Nay’s playing style as poised and calm—a modest teammate who doesn’t tend to show off. The same could be said about Nay as an artist.

“You wouldn’t know he’s an artist if you didn’t go to his place,” Georges explained. “He wouldn’t even show you his art, you’d have to walk into his room and see what he does.”

“He doesn’t show [his art] off, not even on social media. And yet he’s so talented,” Georges continued.

After he’s graduated from Concordia, Nay explained that he would be moving back to San Francisco to pursue a career as a graphic designer. Despite this separation, Georges seemed very confident that he and Nay would remain in touch and support each other. Georges and Nay both have one more fall semester together before they graduate in 2018.

“I don’t see myself as being an artist living off of my own work, I don’t think it’s very realistic,” Nay said. “But it’s still something I’m going to do and I’m going to get a job in art. Whether it’s graphic design or something else, I’m not sure. But I don’t see myself doing anything else.”