040. Phillip Reeves

Phillip Reeves and Jim Woodall, detail from ‘Another Town For Another Life’, 2014. Concrete, glass paint, printed media, timber, cardboard, plaster.

To celebrate the opening of 'Abandoned Land: Sharp Continent’ at VITRINE Bermondsey Square, curator Vlada Maria Tcharyeva talks to artist Phillip Reeves in the first installment of a two-part interview series for Traction

 

How did you end up working with Jim Woodall and in what way did his practice influence your own?

I want to ‘make’ to work things out in my head, whereas Woodall likes to dwell more and worry about theory. He would give me bundles of reading material and I would go away and draw all over them.

My interest in the concept of 'man at play’ formulated whilst playing Frisbee Golf in Pennsylvania a couple of Thanksgivings ago. I was taking photos of painter Eric Diehl tossing the Frisbee about, and I noticed this playground on the course. I noticed the block colors and the shapes. I will not forget this, I got really excited about the playgrounds form, the visceral flowing shape of the tilting slide. It caught me. I knew I had to paint it. Further research into playground designs and history led me to discover Constants’ 'New Babylon’ musings and designs about man having total freedom and time to play and create his own ideal ambiances. Upon returning to England, I informed Woodall what I had been contemplating in America. A peculiar coincidence, Woodall had been researching some of the same ideas, the same manifesto. We talked loosely about making a show together one day. I’m not entirely sure how Woodall’s practice has influenced mine visually, but his research is a lot more in-depth and thorough. I want to 'make’ to work things out in my head, whereas Woodall likes to dwell more and worry about theory. He would give me bundles of reading material and I would go away and draw all over them. We are very different in how we approached this project.

Phillip Reeves and Jim Woodall, detail from 'Another Town For Another Life’, 2014. Concrete, glass paint, printed media, timber, cardboard, plaster. 

What are the bubbles on that concrete all about? And what do you think is lighter? Bubbles or clouds?

What is lighter - Bubbles or Clouds? Live in a bubble, with your head in the clouds. Do not concern yourself with trying to see too far ahead, for you will never see around the corners anyway.

I use spaghetti to paint the bubbles. It is by far the best tool for the job. The best type of spaghetti is Bucatini, it is the one like a little tube that is hollowed out in the middle. What are the bubbles about? Maybe they are cells, a disease or orbs. The outcome is often quite biomorphic. What is lighter - Bubbles or Clouds? Live in a bubble, with your head in the clouds. Do not concern yourself with trying to see too far ahead, for you will never see around the corners anyway.

When you take a bath, do you prefer it to be bubbly or clear-watered, how do you take your bath and why?

Having hardly lived with a bath, they have become a rare and novel occasion. The last time I had a bath I was in someone else's house with a friend. Neither of us knew who the owner of the house was, but we got her name from reading her address on some envelopes in the mail. We made up fantastical stories about her and slagged off her beige decor, pelmets and soft furnishings. We ran the bath, I imagine I would have emptied some shampoo in to make bubbles. We had an ice cream fight in the bath, and during the melee that ensued my friend knocked her glass of red in. The water turned this strange deep grey tinge. I want to tell you it was like a squid letting out jets of ink in the water, but it was much softer than that. That is how you should take your bath - get out dirtier than when you got in.

Phillip Reeves and Jim Woodall, detail from 'Another Town For Another Life’, 2014. Concrete, glass paint, printed media, timber, cardboard, plaster. 

Do you think that artists need to be able to swim and if so, why? How is “swimming” comparable to artistic practice and what can the two disciplines learn from each other?

Living in squats and art studios with no bathrooms for a good few years, and therefore having to shower at friends or in the studio in makeshift bird baths by drawing hot water from a kettle, I finally cracked in November 2013 and joined the local swimming pool. It was wonderful. I cursed the fact I had not done this years ago. I felt rich beyond words. I pretended I had the biggest bath London. I tried to go most days, i needed to wash after all. I got goggles. I got better. I like eavesdropping on the rare conversations around the pool. I think about what I have been doing in the studio when I’m underwater. I think about my parents’ dog, Lionel, being on a treadmill in a tank of water having hydrotherapy treatment, for an injury he sustained whilst jumping for a ball. I think about how absurd a mental image this is - a dog in a fish tank on a treadmill. One day, I will make a painting of it.

Phillip Reeves and Jim Woodall, detail from 'Another Town For Another Life’, 2014. Concrete, glass paint, printed media, timber, cardboard, plaster. 

Talking of swimming: can you name your favorite way of moving around in Second Life and explain why?

I liked running the best. Flying was perhaps the most fun, but running, it was hard to control, and the avatar looked ridiculous running (much like the majority of real-life people.) So you ended up with your character looking pretty hilarious, out of control, drunk, running into a wall or a bush. 

 

'Abandoned Land: Sharp Continent’ opened at VITRINE Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN on 12 June and continues until 29 June. For details, visit http://www.vitrinegallery.co.uk.

Information on Phillip Reeves’ practice can be found at http://www.phillip-reeves.co.uk. Visit http://www.vladanow.com for past and upcoming projects from Vlada Maria Tcharyeva.