Tight 5 - John Reynolds

3 minutes read
Posted 29 February, 2024
John artist pic

John Reynolds

With a creative reputation spanning three decades, John Reynolds is the artist New Zealand turns to for works with a mischievous punch. He also has profound, and often political, things to say using both words and painted symbols, and has an expressive output that stretches beyond mark-making into sculpture, installation and site-specific outdoor works. John’s deeply curious way of viewing the world is evident in his work rich with literary, religious, art historical and architectural allusions, ranging in scale from the intimate to epic.

When did it all click?
There were a number of pivotal yet haphazard events in childhood which l imagine tipped me precariously, inevitably, onto the path of a life in art. One vivid early memory was my first brush with perspective. As a shy six year old l recall an evening at my grandparent’s kitchen within the sprawling grounds of the then Porirua Mental Hospital. Dr Hart, my grandfather, was resident superintendent of this psychiatric facility. One evening, while sitting self-consciously in my pyjamas at the dining table, my grandfather abruptly called for paper and a pen, and with a rapid sweep of lines demonstrated to me how a simple two dimensional drawing of a ship could be magically given perspective and volume with the mere addition of a few lines. It was a sleight of hand. And electric to me, as l already felt more at home with drawing than with conversation. And certainly l understood drawing as personally meaningful, ultimately as powerful as language, a lesson made slightly more dramatic given the context.

In your practice are there any major concepts you find yourself coming back to?
For me: How to make a painting? This could be extended generously to how to make an artwork? This conundrum haunts all projects and endeavours. A theme which also percolates across projects, is the need to communicate an authentic idea of human frailty.

Do you have a process for collecting and selecting which words make it onto the canvas?
Words and text. Dumb shoutouts and viral phrases, weaponising nonsense, neologisms and happy cliche. Mindless slogans, banalities, cryptic asides, cussing, absurdity, whimsy, and the everyday obscure. I filter the potential terms and phrases, which l fall upon through reading or conversation, in lengthy lists in the Notes app on my device (beautiful term that!). There the phrases float in a mundane purgatory before either rejection, or making the cut and appearing written in metallic silver pen on small coloured canvases in an ever growing series titled, Acronyms, etc. Strangely, the work makes itself now, l just have to occasionally pay attention and collect the texts like sweeping leaves on the driveway.

What’s your dream project?
At any given point, the dream project is the one l’m struggling with. However, my one large unrealised dream project remains my proposal to repaint New Zealand’s naval warships in day-glo or fluorescent pink or green camouflage patterns - an intense ‘visibility’ instead of implausible ‘stealth’. I await the call…

Do you have any specific rituals or habits you engage in before you start your practice? Do you have any specific rituals or habits you engage in before you start your practice?
The boundaries between daily life and studio practice becomes increasingly blurry as time goes by. Nonetheless certain banal rituals usually prefigure studio time. For me the necessary consumption of exactly three strong espressos prior to then entering the studio clutching a large mug of herbal tea… And inevitably, in a form of dumb magic, l tend to slink quietly into the studio as if determined to come in under the radar, and to not panic the resident ghosts of contemplation, dream and speculation.

John Reynold’s new exhibition The Moon and the Flowers is at Starkwhite
1–7 Earl Street, Queenstown. Head to Starkwhite for John’s artist talk at
4pm on Saturday 16th of March, the exhibition’s closing day.

John Reynolds from the Acronyms etc series

John Reynolds, from the Acronyms etc… series

John Reynolds The Moon and the Flowers 3 2024. Paint marker and acrylic on canvas

John Reynolds, The Moon and the Flowers #3, 2024. Paint marker and acrylic on canvas


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