Reves One Interview: It’s Not Traditional Street Art, Nor Fine Art. It’s Somewhere In-Between

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Self-promotion. We’re all guilty of it. Whether for business purposes or sheer vanity, the act of selling oneself is an age old practice made commonplace by social media. In the art world, having an established foundation of followers and fans is essential, even if you’ve no intention of making it big. With each new like comes greater engagement that can be harnessed for good.

Leading by that example is 22 year old illustrator and graffiti artist, Reves One. For a young creative, he’s come an incredible way, making moves on an international scale to get his name out there and establish an audience.

Originally from Brussels, Reves has a degree in Arts, a distinction in Cinema, and a string of shows and exhibitions stretching back to 2011.

We were fortunate to be put in touch with him through a connection in the Oxford art street scene, Begs, and are proud to say that he’ll be contributing to our 2pac – Changes exhibition in September.

Reves – over to you…

What distinguishes you from other figures in the creative arena?

I believe I have a weird approach to things. I come from a hip-hop/electronics – graffiti – abandoned places background which I guess explains my love for the grittiness in art. My studies were in Cinematography, so I have a big appreciation for composition in art, and I guess all of this merged into becoming my style.

I’m never looking for the “beautiful” or what pleases most people. I like depth and vibrancy; something with character.

I like to think of my art as being like an old collection car: it may be nice and simple to look at, but there is dust and rust in there that creates an additional charm.

Also, I never paint the eyes of my characters, and that creates a lot of mystery.

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The whole “no eyes” thing is definitely spooky. At what moment in your early years did your love for painting first set in?

I started young. At around the age of eleven I was already spray painting walls. That interest grew incredibly quickly and only became stronger with the years to come. I joined a collective at around thirteen and the demand of us making shows became serious rapidly.

At fourteen, I had a group show with some live painting happening in museums in Brussels called Museum Night Fever. I painted for this event six years in a row, every time in a different setting, with a different theme. This pushed me to become more flexible and fast in my work.

Following that, I was invited to paint for a few successive years on big-scale events like Festival Expressions Urbaines and Couleur Café, which are some of the biggest festivals of the country.

How did you make the leap from painting to photography to video?

Basically, when I was twelve I built a wall made out of board in my garden which I painted as much as I could, often with friends. I decided to take the cheap camera that I had and started filming us painting. Next minute, I’m editing the footage in Movie Maker.

At a live painting three years later, I met a photographer who wanted me to do all the video-related work for his company. He taught me all about photography within a week and I was set.

In what way has your degree in cinema come to shape your work?

It was hard to notice at first, but I can definitely see it now. I always liked the gritty noir style in film, and all my short films and music videos had these noir undertones. One of the big giveaways is my serious characters.

Overall, the composition of my pieces is very cinematic. I apply what I’ve learned in Art History and Cinema Theory for how I position things. You can kind of see a rule of third or heavy composition lines in my work.

What are the benefits of being a self-promoted artist?

Freedom. What I do is far from commercial or popular. It’s not traditional street art, nor fine art. It’s somewhere in-between.

I get to have an audience that appreciates that, and clients that what me for the entity I’ve built.

You’ve travelled around a lot with your work. Where in the world do you feel most comfortable as a creative individual?

In terms of identity, I feel at home anywhere. I do not feel related to Ireland where my family is from or Belgium where I grew up. I’ve also spent time in Asia, South America and the US. Travelling is the best remedy for creativity: you’re jealous of people in your city, but inspired by creatives abroad.

Every major city has something unique to offer to urban artists. Philadelphia is great because it feels more “real” than New York. Madrid could be a beautiful city to paint in because it has the modernity and opportunities of big cities, but remains relatively untouched in terms of spots to paint in. Given the opportunity, I would be a digital nomad like Illustrator, Sam Spratt: always on the go, working remotely.

I’ve also travelled to rural areas. But, when I see people I know painting in the desert or on walls of small villages, I feel as if it’s a bit out of place. Murals should partly reflect their environment, blending with it where possible.

You mention a person called Sit Hairro on your website. Who is he and what does he mean to you as an artist?

It’s weird. He’s not extremely well established, but he’s the one person who really reflects what I’m imagining. Especially composition. There’s a lot of movement in his work, the characters have weight and sometimes the colours are so dark that it’s almost just a silhouette.

As an artist, he’s on the verge of fine art, street art and illustration – exactly where I’m at.

I also want to mention Aykut Maykut and Simon Stalenhag for being hugely influential to me.

What’s your most notable piece of work/project to date?

A lot has happened to me in the last three months. I had my first show in London, won a Secret Walls battle, moved to an artist house, painted with 30 different people on walls in a month, but, most importantly, did my first big mural which is five stories high in Oxford – that was definitely a big milestone.

Looking further back, my wall called Lola with Belgian artist, Nean, is one that impacted a lot of people.

Who’s the coolest person you’ve collaborated with and why?

I’ve recently met like fifty something artists in the last two months since moving to London. Painting next to Tizer or Captain Kris was inspiring for me. They’re both successful graffiti artists. I’ve also made a good friend in Italian calligraphy artist, Emanuele Ricci.

How do you see yourself evolving in the years to come?

I’m going to stay in London and go with the flow of the big boys here to establish myself in the scene. I would have never expected everyone to know me within a month of being here.

I’m also looking into a strong career in illustration, battling the commercial world and bring my style to a wide range of things. Suffice to say, I’ll always be on walls, doing what is unseen in London.

Where can people find out more about you?

I am very proud to point out my website: I built it with a strong vision, with the help of the talented, Thread Creative developer. Most of my work can be seen here, along side my film work.

But, Instagram is the way to go, for the everyday goodness. Hit me up at @therevesone.

Just for fun
Favourite film?

Enemy (2013) by Denis Villeneuve

Early bird or night owl?

Dinner time is where I’m inspired most, weirdly. But, night owl.

Tea or coffee?

Water. I love water. However, coffee tones for my favourite colours.

Time travel or invisibility?

Invisibility. Best power for a graffiti artist. The present is such a beautiful thing, let’s live it.

Coming soon… Stay tuned for our video interview with Reves One over the coming weeks. 

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