The language of abstraction with Amanda Reeves
Peggy team on September 5, 2023
We recently sat down with artist Amanda Reeves to discuss her art practice. Reeves’s abstractions balance complexity and simplicity, method and spontaneity. We're big fans. Keep reading to learn what she has to say about elements of her art practice.
On Untitled 16, Safranal
In Untitled 16, Safranal, I loved the precariousness of the balance in this piece. I liked leaving some questions unanswered, some uncertainty and yet having some moments of complete satisfaction within the painting. I had to sit with this one for a long time to be sure it was resolved, and ultimately, I'm very happy with how it ended up.
On the painting process:
My setup involves specific preferences: I like matte paint and often work in a square format. I mix my colours and don't start with the background. Instead, I begin with elements or shapes, and the background develops in response to them. While it might seem like I paint the background first, the background colour is the final response to the painting.
I frequently work from sketches because there's a notion of repetition in the shapes I use, like how calligraphy functions. But these sketches aren't plans for the painting. They're more like exercises for my body in the shape or mark-making I'll employ. So, I start with a shape, then other shapes and colours respond. The colour selection starts with one colour, and each additional colour responds to the first. Everything in the painting—shape and colour—responds to each other as the work develops. It's not preconceived.
As for the background, it's the last decision. I usually have many pieces in place before going into it. Sometimes, as I'm working, I consider different background options, and occasionally, I'll go back to change elements or adjust the background colour for more depth. It's not a complete flip-flop but more like a push to take the work a little further.
It's the magpie approach of picking up visual languages and combining them; some would be calligraphy, some would be elements from nature, some would be ornamentation and pattern, and then I work them through in my form.
The references become my language, my system of symbols and ciphers to create my abstracted worlds. But sometimes, people find referential elements intentionally or not intentionally. These pieces or the language I'm working with through the repetition and integration into series. They act together to create those worlds for me; the colour is the big influencer. Its shape and colour work in concert.
Since graduating with honours from Ontario College of Art & Design University in 2005, Amanda Reeves has participated in numerous exhibitions. Her work is in the collections of the Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada, Medcan, Census Energy and EQ Bank, as well as private collections in Australia, Canada, Mexico, England and the U.S. Amanda was born in England, educated in Canada and now lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.