John Reynolds lives and works in Auckland and over the past three decades has established a reputation as a painter, a drawer, a worker or words and an installation artist. He began his career painting large abstract colour fields, slowly evolving into structural text-based imagery. His work is rich with literary, religious, art historical and architectural allusions and ranges in scale from the intimate to epic. Reynold’s paintings, drawings and prints utilise materials in an expressive manner that moves between sensuality and austerity. Sometimes they present a singular idea, stripped back, more recently ideas and imagery are overlaid or collected together in such a way that the association between elements is poetic, not fixed. His work is suggestive and evades locked meaning. It has the fluidity of the human mind.
Born 1956, Auckland, New Zealand, John Reynolds graduated from the Auckland University School of Fine Arts in 1978. Solo exhibitions include: The Violet Hour, 2019, a large-scale site-specific window work commissioned by the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki; the falls, 2019, a 23m-long site-specific wall work, commissioned by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Manifesto, Tauranga Art Gallery, 2015; Epistamadolgies, Auckland Art Gallery, 2015; NOMADOLOGY [loitering with intent], Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 2010; John Reynolds: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, a collaboration between the artist and actor/director Geraldine Brophy, Christchurch Art Gallery, 2008; Speaking Truth to Power, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland University, 2007; HEVN: NOT TO SCALE, curated by Sophie McIntyre, Adam Gallery Victoria University, Wellington, 2002: and From K Road to Kingdom Come, curated by Gregory Burke and Robert Leonard, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, 2001.
Group exhibitions include: ANZAC Centenary Print Portfolio, Parliament House, Canberra, 2016; Julian Dashper & Friends, curated by Robert Leonard, City Gallery Wellington, 2015; Lines across the ocean, MOCA, Santiago, Chile, 2013; Kermadec, Maritime Museum, Auckland & City Gallery Wellington, 2012; One Hand Read, presented in a three-person show at Art Los Angeles Contemporary, the international art fair of Los Angeles, 2010; Dorothy Napangardi / John Reynolds, curated by Robert Leonard, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2009; 54321: Auckland Artists Projects, curated by Ngahiraka Mason, Auckland Art Gallery, 2006; Nine Lives: The Chartwell Collection, curated by Robert Leonard, Auckland Art Gallery, 2003: A Very Peculiar Practice, City Art Gallery, Wellington, 1995; Distance Looks Our Way, toured Spain and the Netherlands in 1993.
He won the Montana Lindauer Award in 1988, received a Visual Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council of New Zealand in 1993, won the Visa Gold Art Award in 1994, was twice a finalist in the prestigious Walters Art Prize (2002 and 2008) and in 2006 his large installation text work Cloud was featured at the Sydney Biennale in the National Art Gallery of New South Wales. Reynolds is the recipient of a Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and a member of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Foundation.
The following is an extract from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Newspaper – Summer 1996.
John Reynolds is a painter who really sees himself more as “a drawer”. Drawing, to him, is the language of a world where things bump into each other; the language of uncertainties, chance associations, of flashes of meaning. His diagrammatic drawings look like a fleeting moment of recognition noted, captured in haste. And as fragile as a house of cards.
His work embraces life’s complexity, rather than trying to simplify it. It describes sensations with painted-drawn marks – fly-away lines, pictures, hieroglyphs, phrases, reversed words, unintelligible “collapsed” words, and floating punctuation are spun together, humming with the energy of their maybe-meaning. He makes the real the sensation of being in the gravitational pull of religion, history, literature, language, Irishness, mortality – things that are too big, too shifting to be understood as a whole.
“People have this desire to explain the world – the scientists, the doctors, the philosophers… One thing art can do is resist givens, realise uncertainty, and life’s randomness. Painters must be willing to surrender to the subjective. Otherwise you’re fighting the properties and possibilities of painting. ‘Habit is a great deadener’, Samuel Beckett once remarked, ‘The only fertile research is excavatory, immersive, a contradiction of the spirit, a descent. The artist ia active, but negatively, shrinking from the nullity of extra-circumferential phenomena, drawn into the core of the eddy…’
“I’d rather have all these things I float and come up with than something less. I don’t want to do what I know I can do. When you rely on intuition to recognise significance, and you allow yourself to build up these shimmering vistas the truth of images springs up. Such imagery can sustain you.”