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Darren Reid - Familiar Scenes

Words:

Edd Norval
July 13, 2018

Darren Reid is an Englishman that paints 'contemporary realist paintings'. That description, whilst correct, only scratches the surface. His photorealistic landscapes have a special way of working into your head, making you think that somehow you've been there before.

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His paintings, technique aside, all have a vague familiarity. They seem so simple and plain - crisp. Strangely though, the fact that they are painted and not photographed grants them an element of dream-like or dreamed up reality that oozes with nostalgia.


They're filled with the empty roads that you drove down with your grandfather with Frank Sinatra on the CD or tape player as his baritone voice sings along with Sinatra's in the way only a grandfathers can. Reid's portraits of empty boatyards are the same ones that you used to walk past when you were young in your first home, being pushed in a pram by your mother. Or was it that time you were on holiday?


It's neither, because you've (probably) never been there before. So why do they ring a bell? There's a strong chance that it's something to do with the perspective. It seems so regular and accessible, sort of like Edward Hopper's paintings. You can picture yourself being there, looking out at the world as he has captured it. If you come from or have visited the United Kingdom, you're even more likely to be able to relate to his everyday scenes.

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Reid is an autodidact that began painting for the sake of something to do, something to take his mind off of other scenarios that were forming in his life at the time. He had some ideas about the art he liked, but with no background or training, he sort of just went ahead and did it. It's almost as if, in the desire to escape what it was that surrounded him, he gave himself fully up to capturing the minutiae of detail present in everyday particularities. Their exquisite detail is something to behold. Whilst lacking any real sense of drama, they're endlessly eye-catching.


Most artists in the genre of realism copy a photograph with unfathomable attention to the subtleties and values of light and life. Reid uses photographs to inform the works, but also allows himself the freedom of interpretation. They're composites that tell whatever story he wants them to.


Lacking in the usual background in art, it is the accessibility of these works that drew him to create them in the first place. His only test was. 'Would I hang this on my wall?' Perhaps he is being modest though, not everyone, in fact, hardly anybody can just pick up a brush and create something like he does. It's with a deft eye and steady-hand that he creates something taken from a life that doesn't actually fully exist. It's something like the idea of Inception, planting a dream within a dream - only in his artwork, possibly due to it being constituted of many fragments of places and people, is like planting a memory in your mind where there never was one.

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Memories are interesting, infinitely delicate and complex to try to understand - they're widely agreed upon as being unreliable. This works in Reid's favour. Having a memory of a place you've been is just as potent as a film you've seen with a particular person or at a particular time in your life. Fast-forward many years and you might walk down a road you think you've previously travailed, although couldn't possibly have. Little do you know, it was in that film you watched falling asleep one night and somehow it's ingrained in your mind - more potent that other fully-lived moments.


Cinematic snapshots, the likes that you'd see featured in a kitchen sink realist film from the UK is the order of the day for Reid's paintings. By capturing images that, although as previously mentioned 'lack drama', they are innately powerful in their own right, largely because of their relatability and the power that you imbue them with. By adding in details from several places, or even from his own mind's eye, Reid can trick your brain into making your heart skip a beat. You recognise that old house or the railway yard. But where from?


As a sort of part-time hobby, Reid's done pretty well for himself. Having only embarked on this endeavour around six years ago, he has tapped into an irresistible desire that human's harbour. The longing for home, for familiarity, for fond memories from our past. Like Reid when he started, our lives may not be working out how we want them to - sometimes that's a lot to ask, life is infinitely unpredictable after all. But with his paintings, we can escape and walk down our favourite path once again - Memory Lane.

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