Darren Reid’s journey into his current painting practice could be described as fortuitous. Four years ago, the self-taught artist found himself in a sad predicament. He needed to either put his dog to sleep or commit to giving her a shot of insulin every eight hours. In choosing the latter, Reid found his life transformed into a restrictive cycle of caretaking that meant he was at home often, so he took up painting. Now the artist’s work is collected by a number of galleries and private collectors.
North Mill (2012) is a rendition of the view outside his house at the time he began to paint. Prior to his artistic practice, works of old painting masters such as Caravaggio, Canaletto, and Holbein held an allure for Reid. “The skill required to render something so perfectly in paint always fascinated me,” Reid explains. Referencing Holbein’s The Ambassadors (1533) as an example of work that inspired a love for intricate craftsmanship, Reid is also drawn to the genre for its documentary value, especially in this post-photography age.
For example, in The Things We Leave Behind (2013), Reid wanted to capture the destruction generated by the rapid development happening in his local environment. In painting, the technical rigor required to render a realistic image demands a concomitantly higher level of attention from the viewer; it calls for a deeper engagement with the subject matter at hand. And even though the current fad in contemporary painting encourages more abstract forms, the interest Reid’s work has garnered thus far indicates that skill is still an appreciated quality in art.
Reid’s process is simple but laborious. He begins by taking a number of photographs of scenes and landscapes that are familiar to him, and then selects the image that he finds most technically challenging. In the process of making Before the Storm (2015), for instance, Reid meticulously outlined every detail in the image before he painted it, and the result is a picture-perfect depiction of a harbor in Brixham, uncanny in its photographic quality. The question Reid faces is this: Why create paintings identical to photographs when he could paint from imagination? For Reid, his painting practice might be labeled as photorealist, but his interpretation of the images he chooses to paint has a narrative quality not always prevalent in photographs.
Reid spends 200–250 hours on each painting. Works such as Sunrise, I Left You Sleeping (2015), with its challenging composition of minuscule proportions, reveal the artist’s knack for perfecting the details. For a self-taught painter who has had no formal training in painting, the skill and dexterity with which Reid produces his work is formidable. In some ways, the lack of an art education has been liberating for Reid, who started painting out of a simple desire to fill his homebound time, with no real regard for the art market and its demands. Described as “emotionally quiet,” Reid’s paintings reflect the inherent calmness in the act of painting.
Darren Reid is an artist based in Belper, England. His work is focused on contemporary realism painting, for which he was shortlisted for the John Ruskin Prize in 2014. Reid is represented by Plus One Gallery in London.