Reed Hearne is an American artist who uses photography to create what he describes as Digital Paintings. These works capture the beauty and visual intrigue of subjects that most people would dismiss as merely mundane, like the criss-cross of shadows on a staircase (see Watch Your Step) or the interplay of geometry and light on a stainless steel bridge (see Syncopated Boogie).
Reed’s first solo exhibition, Unexpected Landscapes, opens this week at Onyx Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, and features a selection of pieces that depict the “language of landscape” in overlooked subject matter. Ahead of the show, we caught up with the artist to learn more about his practice and to dig deeper into the concept of Digital Expressionism.
What is it about ordinary subjects that you find so intriguing?
I am always in awe of the design and beauty I find hiding in plain sight because it isn’t considered worthy of scrutiny. Most of the pieces in my Unexpected Landscapes show are straightforward photographs of very mundane objects that reveal surprising vistas when they are reframed and removed from their context. I like to think of what I do as a “hint” of how miraculous every moment could be if we were ever fully present to experience it.
You've said that you live by Monet's saying that “to see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at". Can you explain how this captures what you do?
So much of what we think we see is actually just preconceived assumptions, the idea of a hat, not what a particular hat actually looks like. I aim to encourage viewers to drop their cataloguing mental filter so that they can experience color, form and composition directly and fresh.
The real subject matter of my photography usually has very little to do with the end result, whether unedited or digitally manipulated. It is a practiced “way of seeing” that offers everything before our eyes for reinterpretation.
When you say, "Photography is not my principal aim but it is my primary tool", what do you mean exactly?
Many people have strong ideas about Photography as an exacting, purist medium for capturing a moment in time. It’s just not what I do. For me it’s a tool for collecting colour, line, shape, form, volume and composition. These are the raw materials of my digital paintings.
Sometimes the magic combination appears fully formed in the viewfinder and other times the elements are toyed with and teased into giving up their secret. The process can be instantaneous or very drawn out, but recognising the result that stirs my soul is exactly the same in either case.
You categorise a body of your work as Digital Expressionism. Can you explain this term?
Digital Expressionism as I define it is a blending of the subjective, emotional impact of Expressionism with the Abstract Expressionist notion that the creative process is as much the art as the evidence of it left behind. My Digital Expressionist works are the pieces I’ve manipulated through a complex, intuitive process developed over years of trial and error.
I’ve learned to forage with my camera for the particular balance of visual elements that ultimately leads to a desirable but unexpected discovery. In some ways I guess I’ve come full circle as I don’t really see how what I do now is very different than inventing my own games and rules as a child.