Background/education: I was in education for eons. Sixth Form, a 2 year GNVQ (I couldn't get onto the Foundation course I wanted), BA and then directly to the Royal Academy Schools for three years. All I ever wanted to do was stay in the game even before I had any idea what the game was. The academy was rigorous and for the first time I seriously questioned what being an artist entailed and whether I was up to the task. But it wasn't until I left that things started to really make any sense. I think that in an ideal world art school prepares us to embark and to keep going.
I got lucky because a group of friends had the energy to establish a project space and studios in Hackney and I was part of that. It was somewhere to be exposed, somewhere to make mistakes and to argue with or support one another. It meant that I was protected from the potential isolation of art making until I was more ready for it. I still find the studio a little quiet to this day. I think I've always been someone who prefers to run my ideas live and see how they land. Now I ask people to come for lunch or drinks at the studio and chew the fat that way.
Process/erasure/ghostly: I was making photo-representative paintings and at some point reached for some charcoal because I liked the qualities it offered me while I was replicating depth of field or motion blur and so on. At some point I think I realised that the white of the paper was important in terms of generating a feeling of mechanical light and i think I grabbed some sandpaper to help me reclaim an area onto which I had drawn or to create a sort of visual 'noise'.
After a while I was less interested in the photograph as subject and more interested in playing with narrative or invention but I think I had identified this process as a way to redact authorship and bluff a mechanical surface indicative of something more authentic... It stems from there. Over time I have enjoyed the potential to create a sort of holographic space or simply to make things feel more cinematic.
Medium, settling on charcoal: I'm not sure I'm settled. Increasingly I'm playing around with other materials such as lino relief, clay or paint in the studio. These new forays are certainly influenced by what I now begin to understand about surface. I think that for a long time I denied a whole conversation about whether drawing was a specialism. The more I work in other territories the more I realise that I was reckoning with my understanding of 'drawing' all along.
Past works, influence, 2001: A Space Odyssey: Yes. I think it's still there in the recent works too. It's a masterpiece of course. I'm equally influenced by B movies and pulp imagery. I'm curious about early Spielberg. There's a membrane in his early movies which exists at the edge of our suburban environment beyond which chaos or something awesome resides. It's the beach in Jaws and the shed at the end of Elliot's garden in ET. When I'm in the studio I'm often reminded of Richard Dreyfus' mashed potato in Close Encounters.
Footprints: I'm increasingly interested in what motivates us to make things at all. How we perceive 'truth' and how we establish networks of references, academic signposts and co-ordinates for our own practices. I wanted to make a series of drawings (using charcoal - which is obviously a very difficult material to corral) which were based on something dubious, something flimsy. So I researched people evidencing the existence of Bigfoot and discovered these wonderful archives of plaster casts of the beast's footprints.
The fact that somewhere - someone is 'finding' these prints and then these clunky sculptural objects are made as proof is great. For me, it chimes with a basic need to create and to communicate belief. They're comedic, lumpen, inelegant things but they mean so much, they carry such responsibility. Initially I observed the original archive of casts as my source but lately I've been making rudimentary objects in clay, drawing them and then destroying the model.
Studio, routine: The studio is a decent size space in Mile end, which I have divided into two. One area is a sort of office / kitchen and storage space, the other is where the large scale dirty stuff happens. It's also a nice clear space for me to hang work and mull things over. On an ideal day I've been in the studio the day before. I find that a bit of momentum goes a long way and it can take me a while to start to do anything useful so a succession of studio days is a real goal. I might arrive at 10 and have a cup of tea. If I'm working stuff out I sit in my office and look at things I've printed out. I try to resist the temptation to look at my phone or listen to podcasts. If I can avoid doing that then I have some music on and I'm probably eating something unhealthy. I make thumbnail drawings, some watercolours or collages in preparation for something more time consuming.
If I'm already working on a drawing I'll take my tea into the big space, have a sit and reckon with what's happening then get changed and crack on. I might be sanding the surface of something large, or caught up in the detail of something, so I go at it for a bit and then back off and see what's happening. This can go on for a month or so until i come to some sort of agreement with the work that we're done. Then I often spend a day just looking at it. I like to work on one thing at a time. I'm very easily distracted so I have to keep my head down. This means that there are very intense periods of studio activity running late into the night, but I can also spend ages getting very little done at all. This is often when I am at my most grumpy.
Titles: Titles are tricky right? I like them to open up the potential reading of the work but I never want things to be overly specific. I tend towards phrases from literature or lyrics from stuff I'm listening to.
Art heroes/heroines: It's a swelling role call. Everyone who gets it done. Getting it done is hard!
Tips for young artists: Yeah - don't listen to me. However, if i could go back and whisper in my own ear I'd say be patient but don't rest for long. Never ever try to second guess the reception of your work and don't pitch it tactically at a perceived audience, you won't get it right and you'll be bullshitting yourself. Art making is increasingly hard to do in London so do everything you can to enable yourself and to enable those around you. Say yes more than no. There's strength in numbers and success is fleeting, so don't be an arse!
Future/shows: I don't know... which is nice. This happens to be the first time in a while where I haven't got a few shows lined up. I'm motivated by deadlines but I think a bit of space to rethink is important so I will try to make the most of it. Currently I've got old and new work up in the studio and I've been inviting people to come and talk to me about it. It's proving very useful already.
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Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16