Tuesday 17 October 2017

What Lies Beneath: Redhead by Gareth Reid

Redhead by Gareth Reid, Charcoal on canvas, Courtesy of the artist

Redhead by Gareth Reid
Redhead by Gareth Reid

Niall MacMonagle

'We're all pretty self-obsessed as a species so I, like many others, like looking at the body as a vehicle for feeling and meaning," says Belfast-born, Glasgow/Florence educated artist Gareth Reid.

The face, not portraits as such, "more just plain heads" attract him most. Immersed in the classical tradition, Reid is now abandoning "the highly technical, finding more joy in the accidental, the clumsy and the naive".

He likes the "rough feel of both raw canvas and charcoal and trying to make something refined out of them".

For Reid, the anonymous human is more interesting because "I can focus on structure, atmosphere, presence, etc and alter, omit or heighten without worrying about likeness" - but as winner of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year he got to paint mega-famous Graham Norton.

Norton, in this instance is not the vivacious, shiny-suited television chat show host but a more reflective Norton: Norton the reader and writer.

Grill Graham about posing for Reid, and he says, "I had no idea what to expect, but I was thrilled with the finished painting.

"It has a timeless quality. It might have been painted in the 1920s and looks completely at home in the National Gallery.

"I've never sat for a painting before but it strikes me that as an experience it is entirely reliant on the artist which is exactly the same with a photo shoot and photographer. I really enjoyed getting to know Gareth, so I found the experience a pure pleasure."

Reid thought Graham as subject and collaborator was "ideal - very relaxed, enjoyable". He's also painted close family, his daughters. "That's easier - you can boss them around, whine at them but after a while when the sitter relaxes and become properly part of the process the good stuff can happen."

With Redhead, "the model I use weirdly suits the way I draw. A very solid well-made face and head, quite simple in a way, almost archetypal and the expression is quite blank. I didn't want any expression coming through so that the focus would purely be on the structure and presence". It has depth and strength.

It's a head case. A perfect one.

Gareth Reid Recent Works, until Thursday, June 29 at Molesworth Gallery, 16 Molesworth Street, Dublin

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