There is something incredibly likeable about John Reuss – and it is not just because of Style.No.Chaser’s ongoing love affair with artists on honest quests that choose to share highlights of their journey with the world. John is different in that he has all the traits we adore along with some other distinctive ones. John does share – he actually shares a lot, but his message seems a lot freer than others’, and this is peculiar because his works appear to be portraying confinement and some sort of anguish or angst. John’s images are strong, psychological, surreal, dark, curious and amazing – they make you slip into your own psyche for a split second every time you look at them. It is really hard to isolate what it is about John and his work that is so affable because these attributes are innate and radiate brilliantly from the way he expresses himself in words and in art.
“I still work from a naturalistic starting point – my figures usually start out looking pretty natural, but I’ll the keep adding …”
Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?
I have one younger brother, we were born in Germany. My family moved to the northern part of Denmark when I was a kid.
I currently live in a tiny town in the southern part of Denmark – about one hour from the border to Germany.
As a child I preferred my own company over being with other people. I’d be by myself all day in the nearby woods rather than play with other kids.
If I was at a classmate’s birthday party you would most likely find me in front of the bookshelf of the parents with my nose in some book, instead of with the other kids.
I felt very “alien” for most of my childhood/youth – like some stranger observing the rest of the humans.
In fact I still feel pretty much like that as an adult, but I have learned to function in a social context, at least for shorter periods of time.
How do you describe your form of art and what tools do you primarily use?
I do visual art /painting. As far as genre or style goes my work exists somewhere between abstraction and figuration – with a heavy inspiration from expressionism and surrealism.
I’ve had my work labeled “existential surrealism” or “psychological realism” which I find quite fitting.
I primarily use a mix of traditional brushes, spray guns and drawing utensils (pencils, charcoal, pastels) on canvas.
What does your art mean to you?
My art is something I do because I feel driven to. It is an important part of who I am as a person – and a deeply personal emotional outlet. I also see my art as a form of communication – and a way to touch other people. The one word I would associate with art is freedom.
What is your view/opinion on the art world in general these days?
Well, it can be a bit daunting figuring out how to maneuver the art world as you first start out. What I like about it, is the fact that someone like me – being self-taught and all – can achieve success.
A degree might open certain doors for you initially, but in the long run no one really cares about your degrees, it is all about the art!
Which artists do you look up to?
In the sense of looking up to – I have a thing for David Lynch. I just love his work and admire his ability to work in so many mediums and with such ease and convincing talent. And love the twisted humor too.
The list of artists whose work I love goes on and on though – Christian Lemmerz, and Berlinde de Bruyckere being a couple of them.
Your images have a mysterious, abstract, haunting and deformed look to them, how did you create this unique style and why are you pulled to create images of this manner?
I started out doing naturalistic work – drawing and painting what I could see.
In my teens I discovered surrealism and the whole psychological angle on creating art – and I realized how art can be about so much more than replicating the seen!
So I started working in that direction – using art more and more as personal emotional outlet. Initially very influenced by the surrealistic movement but slowly it grew into something else.
What I do today is a mix of several “isms” and it reflects everything I have tried out during the years.
I still work from a naturalistic starting point – my figures usually start out looking pretty natural, but I’ll the keep adding angles and layers of the same figure, adding and subtracting as I go along. Somewhere in the process I get sort of lost in all the layers and that is actually exactly where the painting starts to “work”. I try to access my own subconscious to some extend – and just react to where the painting takes me. I alternate that with very clean and conscious work, which gives my work that juxtaposition of organic and blurred against hard and flat surfaces.
So the final work is very much the result of a process rather than a planned image.
My work is generally speaking exploring themes such as alienation, loneliness, the pursuit of an unattainable inner harmony and the chaos of subjectivity – which is pretty much why my work looks as it does.
What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?
A lot of people do not like my work – and my most heard critique is how my work is technically great, but too scary or weird to live with. I am aware that by choosing to do the work I do, I cut off a certain part of the art audience, but I do it because I believe in it and not to satisfy everyone out there. Luckily I also have a lot of people who actually get and love my work – and not to sound shallow or overly materialistic, but I feel every sale I make is a huge compliment in itself.
One of the most recent very good compliments I have had was a huge commissioned work – with no strings attached. That is – I was free to do exactly what I wanted and that to me is a huge compliment and shows a trust in my skills and practice as an artist.
Do you ever experience deja vu – where are you usually transported to when it happens?
Actually I often find myself in situations where I have a very strong sense of having seen that exact scenario before….. in a dream.
Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?
I think it is much more about behavior and attitude than certain clothes.
A man resting comfortably in his masculinity and identity can rock anything with confidence and get away with it.
In fact I believe more men should step out of their comfort zone and the norms as far as style and clothing goes – stop reading those silly online style guides on what you can and cannot wear at a certain age or whatever.
Just rock what you want and do it with confidence and zero fucks given about the haters.
What is your personal life philosophy?
Be curious, be ambitious, but don’t take things or yourself too serious. And read some books!
What is your favorite color and why?
Black! I just love how black can be so many things – raw, delicate, hard, elegant etc. I love what it does alone or together with other colors. I love to use black in paintings and I love to wear it too.
Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?
Road trip through USA with David Lynch please!
What type of music do you listen to (if at all) when working?
I have loud music on all the time when I work.
I have pretty eclectic taste ranging from experimental rock over noise to (weird) electronica. I rarely listen to mainstream music. I never listen to the radio when working. Ever.
How can people learn more about (or buy) your current and upcoming works
You can always visit my site – www.johnreuss.com to see what is going on – and of course I’m present on the various social platforms out there. As far as sales etc. that is handled by my gallery here in Denmark, Galleri NB (www.gallerinb.com)
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