When scouring the internet for some Monday inspiration, I came across the work of John Reuss. He paints images within images, distorting the human form making complex pattern. We love the use of colour, with pops of neon embedded in more serene colours like light pink and a subtle grey. W found a great interview with him on The Dead Dear that we had to share with you…
Do you take away a lot from those historic art forms?
Even though I am self-taught as an artist, I’ve actually read and studied quite a bit on art history & technique – and even painted in just about any -ism and style out there. I think my style is a fusion of various influences and things I tried out at an early age – some more deliberate and conscious than others. I like to take natural elements and then mix them with abstractions – so to that extend, there are elements of abstract art in my work. I think there’s also a lot of symbolism and surreal elements, and while you might see the aesthetic of impressionism, I’m actually very inspired by expressionism. I see my work as an eclectic mix based on history and contemporary elements – just as my technique is a blend of classical painting, contemporary techniques and experiments.
Are the subjects in your paintings based off of real people or is it a fully constructed entity?
Both. Some are constructed subjects, I like to think of them “universal” beings or maybe more representations of certain emotions & experiences rather than a specific person, some are meant to be me and a few are actually based on friends and family. I’ve even done a few commissioned portraits.
The hue to most of that series is overall pretty much the same. An almost human blue usually with shades of red, then some other more varietal color choices. Is there a reason for the consistency?
I think my use of color comes very much in phases. I don’t really plan for a specific palette as such, but when looking back I notice that I often will chose a certain color scheme over a period of time. The way I work is pretty intuitive and I think how I feel and what is going on in my life in general influences what colors I use. As for human subjects I tend to go for the more extreme variety of skin tone. I think there’s a lot of symbolism in the way I interpret skin tone – it’s not that I think that is how people look on the outside, but more a representation of their inner life. You’ll probably never find a healthy and perfect pink skin tone in my work, but more the colors of injury, disease, death etc. or even completely unnatural colors.
In the paintings that use a more differential palette there is what seems to me a more design aspect (basic shapes, straight lines, detailed environments), was that something that you had worked on at the same time as the others or did it get added as the work progressed? Was there any particular reason for such a dramatic change in the series?
The interest in geometric shapes and an actual “room” or environment is something fairly new. I used to do completely isolated figures on a very empty background – sometimes a single monochrome color. A while back I began to take more interest in the way my figures interacted with the environment around them – I think it’s a development of my overall theme of contrasts. I tend to make the figures very soft and organic and even to some extent translucent, while the rest is reduced to very basic shapes with sharp lines and areas of solid color. Some of it takes inspiration from a few experiences I’ve had a while back, especially in the space between sleep and awakeness my mind would suddenly have difficulties defining the boundaries of my own physical being in relation to the surrounding objects, I’d feel as if my “self” was this fluid entity that would spill out over and even inhabit the objects in the room – that all were reduced to these angular sharply defined planes.
Convergence of multiple people tends to be a prevalent theme in a portion of your work, is there a symbolic meaning to this. Some idea that you’re trying to convey or that you are pulling from? Or does mixing people together just look awesome?
Mixing people does look awesome! But really, the idea is that it is not multiple people, but actually the same person at the same moment of time. I see it kind of as a snapshot of one persons inner life in one split second. The idea is that while we are all “solid” and composed on the outside, there’s really a fluid multitude of thoughts, emotions and cognitive processes going on the inside. So I’m trying to convey that inner turbulence.
If you had to match your work to other art forms kind of like an analogy with audio and video works (movies or music) do you feel would be comparable or compatible with your paintings?
As for movies I’d have to go for works by David Lynch – I just love how he plays with the concept of identity, time and the dark sides of the mind and I think there are certain similarities to my work. That, and a (music)video by Chris Cunningham!
As for music, I don’t know, maybe something intricate and glitchy like Aphex Twin. Maybe something by Swans or TOOL .. I actually always listen to music when I paint and it goes from dark, intricate, rock to a variety of electronica and everything in between really. Mainstream music and radio is however something I avoid listening to.
I’d love to do more cover art and maybe even music videos or other collaborations with musicians. Music is a big source of inspiration for me and I think a cross-field collaboration would be awesome
You can find more of Johns work