American artist James Rieck paints models, but not in the way you might expect. In his huge colourful canvases he takes figures from adverts and recreates them four or five feet wide, capturing their clothes, their postures but not their faces.
“I used to paint from my own photos, but I found it more exciting to explore the ideas embedded in pictures used to sell products,” James told us. “By using the models in ads, I can bring my own point of view to the figures in my work, while still having the loaded content the ads carry.
“I don’t focus on the face in my paintings, or even copying the ad. I bring the attention to the unspoken body language of the models, and their accoutrements. Often times it is a gesture or posture that I’m interested in. It’s there that I see the history of figure and portrait painting. There’s a similar language to presenting one’s best, with undertones of hiding. We know clothes are used to cover us up – they always tell us about what we are hiding from ourselves and each other.”
"We know clothes are used to cover us up – they always tell us about what we are hiding from ourselves and each other."James Rieck
James has a special affinity for the UK after spending some time during his studies at the Glasgow School of Art, where he was inspired by the appetite for painting he came across.
“The studios were filled with painters. Painting was very ‘in’ then, and the conversations often rotated around it. Some teachers even had studios in the building with us. The whole environment was intense – the emphasis was on working and not so much on critique.
“Because of the way tuition was set up, if a student didn’t work enough in the studio, they were kicked out, so everyone around you was focused on their work. I can’t really say it necessarily always made for better artists, but it made for a more rigorous and excited climate. It did take me two weeks to understand a word of Glaswegian, but I loved it!”