Text to accompany the exhibition 'Long Before' 2010, by Mick Peter.
1.In front of rhododendron bushes lawns are often mossy and wet. If they ring a whole property, the shade created by the billowing leathery green-black leaves can divert a whole lawn from its business of growing grass. The unruly expansion creeps, its tangled skirts converting any open space into a series of soggy cul-de-sacs. Perhaps a man in pristine tennis shoes walks out to smoke; the dents left by his footsteps as he passes slowly disappear behind him in the wet green sponge. The gravel filled ruts of an attempt at a grand driveway the only break in the vegetal castellation. In P.G.Woodehouse stories, the characters could enact all sorts of scrapes and japes within these boundaries. Woodehouse was always adamant that his imagined ageless aristocrats were unencumbered by anything as boring as reality. That's the problem with living so long; your friends start to die.
2. The fence posts bowed at each other, their heads rounded and creased, with odd tufts of moss and hair nestling in the open grain. The barbed wire was slack, shreds of wool turning it into bumpkin bunting. Lurid grass thrived in the cow shit and the shade of the unruly hawthorn that had been mechanically hacked back. A dense drizzle formed jigsaw shapes above it all. The animal thought about how it would follow one of the matt black slots through the peat up on the hillside, like a flop-eared Scalextric car. It thought about how it might encounter intrepid walkers, grinning manically as they cowered behind a friendly rock. The animal performed an awkward four-legged about face to scratch its crusty arse on the wire. That's when it caught sight of the tent.
© Mick Peter 2010
Essay accompanying the exhibition 'Everything Remains' 2004, by Sophie Morrish
Of Atmosphere and Otherness
In actuality the cultural mainstream of the West is fast moving, visually saturated and predominantly urban in character. Set against such a backdrop the work of Gareth Reid could appear to be from a previous age. But whilst contemporary work of a more sensational nature may capture headlines and successfully reveal divergent interpretations of twenty first century human experience, it is not our sole conduit for meaning. In fact, it could be argued, such velocity of experience necessitates work such as Reid's- typified as it is by intense, disciplined and somewhat meditative practice.
Manifestly figurative, Reid's images are far more than virtuoso representations of the encountered world. seductive, beautifully rendered and elegiac in appearance, they exert a muted yet powerful influence upon the viewer.
An air of longevity pervades these canvases, as if long before their making they awaited realisation in precisely the form in which we perceive them today; these images exude a restrained confidence that has no need for grand expressive gestures in order to communicate their sensorial dimension.
Reid speaks of the 'it-ness' of a place, instinctive recognition afforded by the seemingly haphazard arrangement of objects in nature, of atmosphere and 'otherness'; it is this intangible essence that lends his drawings their intrigue. It is not the apparently 'captured' image that is the true subject of these works but the ethereal forces of nature and perception.
Woodlands and forests are locations imbued with deep-seated associative meaning, they hold a primordial sense of trepidation and wonder for us all, despite our overtly urban modern existence. However limited our experience in reality may now be, it is unlikely many of us escaped their dark influence as places of unknown and mortal danger in fables and fairytales read to us as children. This combination of instinctive and learnt response prompts receptivity from even the most cynical of urban consciousnesses.
Based in Glasgow but of Northern Irish origin, Reid draws upon experiential knowledge and personal photographic imagery of both Scotland and Ireland as primary source material for the works in this show. But these are just starting points, the processes by which these images develop in the studio underpin their integrity and a casual glance is not enough to comprehend their depth.
Beginning from a defined and coherent perspective, Reid becomes increasingly absorbed in the compelling interplay between the physical act of making, (itself an intricate and skilful process), and remembrance of place. Emerging somewhere between the two are images of dramatic and sensitive effect.
Sophie Morrish / Artist and Lecturer, Glasgow School of Art / November 2004.
Essay accompanying the exhibition 'Black Mirror' 2007, by Dr Alex Kennedy
Before the Black Mirror
All access to nature is mediated- there is no virginal, idyllic, pre-cultural state to be sallied through. The 'natural', the 'beautiful', the 'sublime' and the 'picturesque' are Enlightenment constructions that post-Enlightenment artists and philosophers lock-off and make safe by the use of quotation marks and parenthesis. This does not reduce the power of art to gesture towards these Universals- that is all it can do- and the paintings of Gareth Reid act as signifiers of this impossible urge to access this lyrical, bucolic beyond.
The Black Mirror that the title of the show refers to starts off an eternal chain of correspondences and references: the obsidian mirror of the Aztecs, the scryer's pool of black ink, the spirit mirror of the Goetia, the black chamber of the eye that reflects light back into the universe, and the apparatus used by artists to gauge the tonal qualities of a landscape. The artist's black mirror was popular with a host of landscape painters and their followers from the 17th century onwards, who, in holding the mirror up to a landscape would find what they believed to be a more picturesque, a more beautiful and natural version of the scene reflected in the glass. This need to record and reflect a scene or an event unfolding before them symbolises the way all viewing subjects mediate their experience of the Real within the psyche. Art acts as that screen.
Art becomes a black mirror in Reid's hands, where the artificiality of nature is subtly enforced. The paintings act as screens between self and other, culture and nature, Man and nature- illusory binaries that fight it out on the excavated surface of his work. The expanding haze of coloured light, the pool of shadow and the almost intangible edge of a plane are kept in place with his deft pencil stroke, line and form keeping each other in check. The paintings move between three shifting and overlapping concerns: the portrait, the landscape and the interior as subject matter. Reid creates narratives by hanging examples of these genres together; meaning emerges through the fecund juxtapositions that his diptychs and triptychs create. In 'The Sea' and 'Family I', for example, the viewer is forced to create a relationship between a seascape and a portrait of a young girl. The meaning that is generated appears only in the viewers mind, as a third conceptual art object, as the missing third part of an imaginary triptych. This is a simple yet sophisticated device on Reid's part: not only does he demonstrate that the meaning we find in his objects is a meaning we bring, but that essentially 'reality' as we know it is mediated, is 'artifice', that there is nothing before the black mirror.
Dr Alexander Kennedy, Art historian and Critic.