About...

not exactly the boy next door

Like so many others, I have been a hobby photographer for many years. However, not content with just happy snaps, I strived to find a form and suitable content, and for a while played around in my own B&W darkroom.

My working life was involved in various fields of sound production in the music, broadcast and entertainment industries. Those areas all required applying technical and creative input to other people's ideas, the projects always being collaborative and collective efforts.

However the beauty of sound as a form is in its direct effect on a listener. Costumes, lighting, staging, etc, may allow for considered digestion, but sound - be it music, dialogue or effects, touches the senses before a response can be fully formed. With the screech of some ear splitting feedback that can make an audience run out of a venue clasping their ears, I often thought: "Now you can't get that reaction from bad set decoration..."

Therefore the creators in the pop culture world I grew up in and who interested me were the 'direct impactors': those making a bold statement who often represented or even facilitated a cultural shift whether it was anarchic, carefully crafted or surreal. And it was almost of secondary concern in which form they were proponents - in music it was perhaps Dylan and The Doors, in film Antonioni and Robert Altman, and in art Magritte, Escher and Andy Warhol. Of course there were so many others as well.

I shared this indulgence in popular culture with some great friends, especially Bill Walker, who influenced my ideas in photography just as I had encouraged him into working with live sound. In photography we experimented with several techniques including stereoscopy, where friends would practice merging left and right images without using glasses and finally focus in on a rich and clear 3D scene.

Bill

Bill could always take an inspired photograph but eventually began experimenting with digital manipulation, often creating exotic patterns that both pleased and tantalised the eye, or were just clever and/or funny pictures. We exchanged many emails and photocards over the years and in his last year he managed to have a showing of some of his framed photos, while I continued to entertain him with emails and images that indulged our similar interest in art, commentary and humour.

When he became too ill to create and send any more pictures he suggested that I "take over" as though he was handing me the 'funny photo baton'. But it was a casual remark and I didn't take it seriously even though I had already amassed quite a few images with him in mind, and many otherwise.

I had already exhibited a few framed landscape photos in local competitions when it was suggested that I hold my own solo show. I initially didn't take that seriously either, but while I was trying out canvas prints with promising results, I was offered a prime time slot in a local gallery, so a solo exhibition became an interesting possibility.

Matte Canvas Prints

I found it curious that the most popular forms of viewing reproduced images, ie gloss photos and framed works behind glass, meant that at least 30% or more of the image was dramatically disturbed by reflections and light. The strangest experience is in looking at an expensive, framed and glassed work in a gallery, one that has probably been handled with gloves and insured for a fortune, yet a large part of the image is obliterated by the reflection of my shadowy silhouette and the expresso bar behind me.

Even the more expensive museum glass generates some reflectivity, and standard gloss photos are all very well... once you get them at the right angle. So I was put off presenting photographs in the traditional framed format until I started using matte finish canvas. Initially I had thought of canvas as a poor quality medium, lacking detail and contrast, and in the early days it did.

But the polyester/cotton blends available today together with the archival inks that are now used, can provide a high quality result. Finding a reasonably priced and reliable print processor is not so easy, however I intend to make available all the works on this site through a good quality supplier. So please keep watching... Or write to me at the email address at the top of this page if you would like to register your interest.

Stretched canvasses as a medium are relatively inexpensive, light in weight and easy to hang. This gives them a slightly 'disposable' quality, especially when printed with a mass reproduced image thus fulfilling general consumer trends and tastes - art now being no different from any other consumable products bought, used and discarded (or recycled), a point Andy Warhol encouraged us to consider.

While I'm not against photo borders and picture framing as such, and stretched canvasses often come in a floating frame, I prefer the frame-less style, which avoids providing a context in which a work may be viewed. This suits the intention of my work - to evoke a direct effect from the image alone without any distractions. Borders define a work within a 'picture window' and frames can imply a presumption that it is 'art' and how its to be viewed. I prefer to let the image alone do all the work.

The works

A curious quality of the protagonists I admire is the way in which they combine previously disparate elements in their art. For instance Lou Reed took literary references into rock music; Kubrick combined reality and sci-fi in his films, David Bowie's pop music incorporated avant garde elements and Warhol combined non-art and art, etc.

This merging of unlikely elements often produces an unexpected outcome that can seem like a totally new thing altogether, and in one sense it is. Renè Magritte even called one painting The Unexpected Answer, explaining this very effect yet creating a new style in the process.

Banksy's fantastic ideas are enhanced by the very fact they are graffiti. In fact their potency is necessitated by being graffiti. A lot of his work repeatedly makes this point in a variety of ways - powerful messages presented in a transient environment. I'll be happy enough with presenting rich imagery as cheaply as possible.

The influences I have absorbed and reflected in some of the images should be obvious. They comprise pastiches, parodies and reappropriations that play on well known art trends, perceptions of art and other artist's oeuvre, as well as simple pictures.

Art that comments on itself, or references other artists and their works makes perfect sense to me. As though the process of creating art is essentially one of questioning what is it, what is its purpose, what other artists say it is and how art interacts with social phenomena. If not, its about subjects beyond art and even then brings into question its own form.

Daring to align myself with some of the greats I found I can only approach 'making art' the same way - to use it to question itself, send itself up, to try and find its boundaries, to try and give it meaning, whatever that may be...

And perhaps its just to make some pretty pictures to match the furniture. As Andy Warhol once said of his variously coloured but otherwise identical Electric Chair series, which depicts the actual death chair at Sing Sing Prison, it fascinated him that "...the version a buyer would pick was one that matched the drapes"...

Dada-ism and Doodah-ism

In accordance with the art I admire I have infused a healthy anti-art sentiment which I hope is obvious. Having grown up as an avid viewer of The Three Stooges on B&W TV, I am particularly fond of Dada art and its ideals. Dada was created by a group of artists in France against the backdrop of WW I as a reaction to the horrors of war, and utilised everything from nonsense, irreverence and humour. They were the first to call their art 'anti-art'.

The Dada movement ultimately affected post-modern and contemporary art indirectly through the whole line of consequences and art movements that relied on it. Dada eventually changed everything, contributing to the world in which we were born where "everything can be called a piece of art".

It seems to me that Dada has been overlooked as being such an influence and that perhaps its a good time to pay homage to it, as well as revisit those wonderful attributes of mischief, wit and challenging convention. Hence the title of my first exhibition "Doodah-ism".

Paul Reeve