John Reuss

“For me, art is an excellent language for what goes on in between the lines, the things you can’t explain or directly translate in words. So for me art is partly about communicating the intangible and emotional. “

How did you start painting?

It was something I did already as a kid – like most kids, playing with colours and crayons. I got my first set of oil colours when I was about 10 which pushed my interest even more. So it is something I have kept with me all my life practically. The “serious” part did however not start until much later in life. For the longest time, I would actually just paint for myself and not show anyone.

What have been the major turning points in your career up to now? What the greatest satisfaction?

You know there have been turning points on several levels – from getting admitted to important juried shows to getting my first gallery deal. And there are even some of my own pieces I consider pivotal and sort of turning points in the development of my skills, technique, and expression. The greatest satisfaction, however, is really meeting and talking to people who are touched by my work. I went from somebody who was afraid to show his work to the world to actually enjoying how other people get something out of it.

Your work is overtly characterized by contrast…what does tell us of your idea of painting? How does contrast reveal -if in any way- in your personal life?

I suppose it says something about how I see composition and visual interest – but also how I use contrasts in a symbolic way. Now I do use contrasts on several levels – from using contrasting colours to clashing soft organic shapes with very hard and flat surfaces and expressive brushstrokes with geometric abstractions.

I don’t know if contrast reveals my personal life as such – not anymore that it does everybody else’s I think. I mean, it’s part of the human condition to experience the contrasts of life… from joy vs. depression to life vs. death…

Psychology plays an important role in your art. What are your trying to convey with your paintings? What do you feel is the role of art in this realm?

Yes, psychology cognitive processes, existential issues – it’s all something that is very prominent in my process and in my work. The big umbrella theme in my work in probably alienation – the feeling of not belonging, feeling not quite at home in this world, in a social context or maybe even your own body.

For me, art is an excellent language for what goes on in between the lines, the things you can’t explain or directly translate in words. So for me art is partly about communicating the intangible and emotional. But I also think it is my way of both reaching out to others while actually reaching into myself at the same time and dealing with all my own issues.

You state that “painting over parts, making mistakes and getting lost is a very important part of my process”…how much do you think the fear of error -and fear in general- hinder our creative skills and outputs? What tips would you give to overcome it?

The fear of error is something I have had to work on letting go. Or maybe I should say learn to welcome the error instead. I actually still think about it quite often and consciously try to avoid being too rational in certain parts of my process. I think it’s quite important as an artist to be able to transcend that rational thought and just sort of go with the flow for at least certain parts of your work. 

My advice would be to try to lose the reverence for your own work – and don’t be afraid to be messy and absolutely ridiculous, you can always dial it back a notch. 

I have noticed that we often are much freer if it’s “only” a study we are doing or a sketch. But then when it comes to the actual piece, we tend to cramp up a bit and try to “get it right”. As a result, I don’t even do separate sketches or studies as such. I just start directly on the canvas, so I actually employ sketching and all the messy bits as part of my process and the finished piece.

An artist you feel has particularly influenced you? In what way?

The most important influence for me was not so much a single artist, as discovering the surrealist movement and its artists as a teen. That whole idea about releasing the creative potential of the unconscious mind and the art the came out of it…. that is when I learned that art can do so much more than depict the physical reality (before that I was mostly doing natural stuff – ie. painting what I saw) and that was really essential and gave me the push into what my work has become today!

A soundtrack you would like the viewer to enjoy while looking at your work?

Preferably absolute silence. 

Alternatively – if you would like to know what it is like to be in my studio, I always have loud music running and the current playlist is an eclectic mix with everything from Swans, Sunn O))), Scott Walker, and Boy Harsher.. to David Lynch… I probably forgot some of them too… oh.. one of my all-time favorite albums that I will blast over the studio speakers on repeat ever so often is “Pornography” by The Cure – that always gets me in the mood.

The best piece of advice you received as a painter?

Work every day – if it’s a lot or not, work every day.

An artist you want to give a shout out to?

Berlinde De Bruyckere….still dreaming about having one of her sculptures/installations in my living room…

Next and upcoming projects?

Currently I’m in a big group show here in Denmark – and I am working on pieces for upcoming shows in Denmark and USA.

Credits: John Reuss

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