Will Reed is a Brooklyn-based painter. His work speaks for itself. Will received a BA, Summa Cum Laude, Studio Art; a BA, Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, and minors in Religion and Philosphy from Lyon College, Batesville, AR. Will received his Post-Baccalaureate Certificate of Fine Art at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Baltimore, MD, and is currenting working on a MFA, Painting, New York Studio School, New York, NY. Also, a Master’s of Art Education at Columbia University, New York, NY.
In this interview, Will discusses why and what he paints, what women he finds attractive, and brushes his inspiration, which includes filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky, Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni, Bela Tarr, and more.
(1) Why do you paint?
I feel that I am carrying a torch, the torch of the original imagists of Lascaux and Avignon those wonderful, magical cave painters (probably women) in the prehistoric times. It is a powerful notion that profound and poetic images can come into being from primitive and simple means — pigment, natural oils, fabric supports, etc. They were making these amazing metaphors for their existence and that is essentially what I am doing today. Painting and drawing both have a very physical visceral quality that other 2-D media simply lack. I am a practitioner of a communicative form that predates written language and I think that is a very special and powerful thing given the contemporary art climate.
(2) What do you paint?
My painting language encompasses a broad subject matter. I paint often time exclusively from life. I love painting fellow humans. I also think painting the animals that we share our world with is meaningful subject matter as well. I also spend a great deal of time painting outdoor and interior spaces directly from life too. But, many people would probably say that my synthetic work, that is work derived from memories or imagination, might be the most powerful and original. These paintings/drawings are reflections on my past, on the current world, and on the realm of nightmares and what many might consider the macabre or terrifying. In these works I feel that the Freudian idea of “Thanatos” and to a lesser extent the idea of “Eros” is paramount.
(3) Are certain things better left unpainted?
I feel that almost anything can and has been painted. Is it well done and meaningful, probably not. I love the ambition and fearlessness that it takes to paint the figure today. It is such a hard subject to paint. You get to realistic and it slips into stale academism, too flagrantly sexual and your looking at soft core porn, and too sweet and its just sentimental. This is why for me the figure is really the make or break motif for me. Can I do it right now? I don’t think I am capable, but I will continue. Failing makes me a better painter. So, returning to the question I think some things are tremendously difficult to paint. But that doesn’t mean they’re better left unpainted.
(4) What is your inspiration soup?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Obviously the history of painting. My favorite paintings and painters changes from month to month. Right now I would say Giotto, Paulo Ucello, Titian, El Greco, Goya, Degas, Bonnard, Ceazanne, Seurat, A.P. Ryder, Edwin Dickinson, Euan Uglow, and Antonio Lopez Garcia are the painters that make the list. Within that group I take a little from each painter and try to synthesize it with my own language. And if you know those painters that group begins in the late 1300’s and continue into today. I pay attention to what my contemporaries are doing, I enjoy the Leipzig painters and there are some young painters here in the US I look at it, but I feel like I have a lot to learn from the past masters.
In terms of influences outside of painting well that is whole other story. I am deeply influenced by film and literature/poetry and too a lesser extent by music. I am in an intense period of watching the films of Andrei Tarkovsky- late Russian filmmaker active from the 60’s until 1988 when he died. The harmony of beautiful imagery, the history of all art, personal narrative, and craft all speak to me in his work. For me, Tarkovsky stand with the great masters of painting. His images transcend temporality and specificity, yet at the the same time they have such a unique personal language and history to them and that is similar to how I want my work to function.
I watch Hitchcock on repeat as well. The films of Michelangelo Antonioni have impacted my drawing as well and recently the high drama of Bela Tarr has influenced some of my images.
In terms of literature, well I feel as though we live in dark times and really for me no one is darker than Dostoevsky, so I don’t buy too many new books I just re-read all of his (I own all his works). Its an extreme examination of the human condition and you don’t get much serious than that. Plus, he just takes you into the gloom, that dark tonal gloom of dark earth colors and cold greys, at least that what sort of color his stories emit for me. For a very long time I loved the works of William Faulkner, I even spent a great deal of my MFA thesis writing about Faulkner. A critic once asked me who I read while I was working on a specific body of paintings, I replied Faulkner and he said, “It figures, you’re a southern gothic” — I was very complimented, obviously.
Faulkner has that same sense of time and place as Tarkovsky, but yet the imagery functions on a universal level.
Music wise, well Johnny Cash is always playing in the studio. But recently I have been addicted to Daniel Johnston and Elliot Smith, obviously for their darkness. But I thoroughly enjoy listening to Bach, Beethoven, and Rachmaninoff as well. I hope that is a rich enough soup for you!!
(5) Your work very much pulls focus on the relationship of man and animal; man and nature. Over the last few years, the public has gradually become aware of the existence of a new cause: animal liberation. DINCA believes that animals and all creatures are absolute equals to the human.
What are your thoughts?
I think I could return to an earlier answer. Those cave people, the very first imagists, what were they drawing and painting? The animals around which they structured their existence.
For me, animals are amazing things, they are magical if you will. It is a wonderful thing when you realize the sentience of animals. I feel like I did at an early age because it was something my mother instilled in me.
From my first memories as a child I can remember being with dogs. They have always been my friends, and more often than not the most loyal ones. But, though my work focuses almost exclusively on dogs, I believe most all creatures have this magic about them. I know “magic” seems cheesy or too whimsical but I mean really if you’re in the “know” how else do you describe this? Concerning the equals aspect of your question — I don’t know if I can agree across the board. For instance, I know that without a doubt my dogs have a stronger life force and intelligence than many people I meet, but do I think they have that compared to me, no. But there are plenty of slovenly worthless human beings out there that I would prefer the company of rats to!! So, I think its more a spectrum than absolutism. I don’t I could paint such great images of my animals if that did not posses a profound life force — more profound than say many humans I meet.
(6) This is a general question: what will happen in the future?
I want to believe that this a broad existential question. I could go into a diatribe/rant on this. I will try to be succinct. Where we’re at is here: slaves to a imperialist, globalized, capitalist fascism that has raped the earth and a majority of its inhabitants. We are spiraling towards oblivion and we as a total culture have set into motion forces that will destroy us if we do not change. But, we have shown that the only change we are capable of is change for the worst. Hence, I can only see Apocalypse. But not in the earth shattering Hollywood variety, more like the slow creeping type that only T.S. Eliot could sum up: “This is how the world ends, This how the world ends, this is how the world ends………………not with a bang, but with a whimper.”
(7) What animal/creature comes to mind when you hear the word “DINCA?”
Also, when you hear “… a beautiful girl …” what lady initially comes to mind?
DINCA- A Rhino type dinosaur creature.
Beautiful girl: I can’t say just one so I’ll give you a few — Halle Berry, Zoe Sladana, Uma Thurman, Salma Hayek, Audrey Hepburn, Donna Reed, Nina Simone, Jennifer Wallace, and true to my weird Freudian roots my Mother of course!