John Reuss‘ paintings reflect our inner lives, his disfigured characters a physical manifestation of our psychology, the existential issues that confront us, humanity, everyday; alienation, loneliness and the pursuit of an unattainable inner harmony.
Originally a graphic designer Reuss uses all his experience to create wonderfully rendered figures by applying multiple layers of pencil, charcoal and acrylic on the canvas often juxtaposing fine line and detail with broad bold brushstrokes of nuanced colour to create a fragility that is altogether human. There is a sense of Bacon in his work, a nod to the master, with his application of multiple angles and movement that create an uncertainty and fear in each composition.
Here’s what he has to say about his work:
My work is characterized by contrasts – the juxtaposition of opposites on several levels – which is recognized throughout my paintings. Fine detail, drawn lines and meticulously painted shapes clash with bold brushstrokes, spatters and blurred contours. Soft organic shapes and multifaceted figures meet hard, calculated geometric abstractions.
The world I depict is not a physical location in space and time. It is an inner world, a world where thought, emotion and raw cognition defines not only the figures, but also the space they inhabit.
For me the creative process is a key to that inner, psychological world – balancing on the border of the conscious and subconscious and revolving around themes like how we relate to the world we live in, the definition of “self” contra the surrounding world, our bodily integrity and mortality.
Labels such as “existential surrealism” or “psychological realism” have often been used about my work – which I think describes it well. I aim to make art that not only tells about me, but also speaks to the viewer and is open to interpretation – that can contain meaning that I myself have not foreseen.
About his process of working he has this to say:
My process is one of dialogue, applying, revisiting, destroying and creating. My favorite medium is acrylic paint – it dries fast suiting both my temperament and my technique very well. I don’t like to wait too long in between adding layers of paint to my work.
In the process I strive to obtain a balance – on the border of the conscious and subconscious, where i react and paint without too much reflection, alternated with more reflected and controlled decisions.
Painting over parts, making mistakes and getting lost is a very important part of my process. Although frustrating at times, getting lost and loosing the overview allows for unforeseen and unusual ideas to emerge. For me creativity is as much about tearing down and destroying as it is about creating and building up. This also means that the final work is the result of the process rather than a planned image.
Towards the end of the process I add the finer detail, finishing highlights and shading and cleaning up certain lines and areas. You often find traces of the process itself in a finished work: The structure of layered paint, delicate pencil work, the raw smudged charcoal lines and layers intertwined and partially exposed.
Since my process is cyclic it is also endless – I will often revisit already “finished work” and rework it all over again, giving it a new dimension and adding to the historicity of the work.