Joshua Reyes: Chaos and Order
A Conversation between the artist Joshua Reyes, Ty Bishop, and Justin Archer. Originally Published in Winter 2017.
Justin: Where did you begin? What got you into art?
Joshua: In high school, I started a drawing class and my teacher really cultivated my skills and said that I really had something. She told me that I should pursue art. I thought about it and was like, I can draw in school? Yeah, I'm down. Once I started college, I went through a period of trying to rationalize and make sense of it. I loved art because it's what brought structure and order to my life, but I wasn't sure if I should go through with being an art major. At some point, I realized that I needed to do it. I couldn't deny it.
I went into art school, and hated the first two years of drawing perspective, landscape, and the figure. I almost changed majors. During my junior year, they said "do whatever you want" and the whole world opened up to me.
Ty: In retrospect, do you see anything invaluable that you learned in the two basic years of classes that you hated?
Joshua: Yeah, I would say that. To make something good is to go through an allotted amount of time that you loathe. Once you get through that, something clicks and you make something amazing. For me, I never started out doing realistic things. I always got expressive. Gesture was amazing to me. Rendering movement instead of form was interesting to me. In every class I had, I became expressive and abstract.
I remember my instructor telling me that he could see that I used abstraction in my work, and that I was good at it. He told me that I couldn't do any of that for the rest of the semester, and I had to draw figures realistically. It was torture. He told me, before I made a mark on the paper, I had to look. Having to pause before I drew allowed me to render in a different way. It taught me how to look and see.
Ty: How does the process of looking and mark making relate to what you're doing today?
Joshua: It's directly related. A lot of what I'm doing today is about different approaches to mark making. It becomes all about tempo, rhythm, and composition. I think of my paintings more like songs. In a song, you can't play 1/8 notes the whole time. In some of my older paintings, I used a paint scraper and moved it across the canvas at different speeds. At a certain point, I step back and pause to look before I begin again.
Justin: So you're observing the mark that you made and finding a way to respond to it?
Joshua: Exactly. Before, it was all about expression. I never knew what the mark meant to the painting. It's all about actions that are reactionary to the previous action. It's intuitive, but at the same time, I'm implementing everything that I learned before like design, composition, balance, structure…formal things that are in my head that I'm not literally thinking about at the moment.
Ty: It's interesting hearing you talk about your work because I'm hearing all these different influences that are art related and not. You've mentioned music a lot, and I think of William Kandinsky and how music was important for his paintings. You've talked about actions and science, and it reminds me of Newtons Laws of Motion. What are some of your influences and the way you think about art?
Joshua: Influences and experiences are something that I cannot deny. They are a part of me, and will always be a sub conscience component to who I am. Almost everything that I've learned in general is an influence to my work. To me, the most interesting part is when I can make the connections that are inside my art to the outside world. That's when you find more meaning to what you're doing, and you understand not only what your art means, but why you exist. That's the fascination: Why am I here? What am I doing? How do I fit into the world?
I do a lot of reading. I read a lot on philosophy, psychology, and I'm starting to read into linguistics. Communication is vital to humanity, and all I'm doing is communicating visually. If I can understand oral communication, then I can better understand visual communication. That's one.
Every action I make becomes like a word. I'm speaking to the object, and the object is listening. After I speak enough, I sit back and think about the meaning of the marks I made. Visual language exists to communicate. The communication my work gets to the outside world is based on the meaning I find in the works.
Ty: So you're saying that your process is a way of understanding yourself, and by doing that, you find better how you relate to the world in general?
Joshua: Exactly. It can't stop at me. I have to figure out why I'm doing this in the first place. It's fulfilling and way to understand myself. For me making art is the most personal and honest thing I do.
Ty: It's interesting that you say that. At the advent of Abstract Expressionism, Pollock's intentions were to specifically to express emotions, but art critics looked at his work and said they were reflections of the time of the age he was living in. There seems to be correlations between your work and his work even though from an aesthetic standpoint they are very different. How do you see yourself in relation to what Jackson Pollock was doing?
Josh. Jackson Pollock had amazing idea and he did things that no one was doing. At the same time, he denied the truth that he was a person from society. He wasn't trying to relate to people and was very introspective.
Justin: Like the Grinch in his cave?
Josh: Kind of like that. He was genius in what he did, but he didn't acknowledged humanity. In this time period, I feel that it's irrational to acknowledge humanity. That's why I like to share these ideas.
However, I would say that I am very influenced by Pollock. He was the the first abstract artist I studied. I was fascinated by the fact that he put it on the floor. He threw paint at it, he would step on it. He had a physical interaction with it. All of those ideas including expressing the unconscious were the foundation for how I made art. I can't deny that Pollock was an influence.
Justin: The work you made until very recently was somewhat traditional. Now you're using non traditional mediums to make art. What made you decide to start using these materials?
Josh: One of the critiques of my earlier work was that it always had a cityscape and industrial reference. There was this idea of industry and mass production. That led me to become more about construction and the idea of making things that are big and massive. That brought me to ideas of construction and be more aware about the materials I use.