We continue our occasional series of guest blog posts with artist Maggie Reeve’s thoughts on eight artists who have influenced her.
Eight Artists – Maggie Reeve
1. Pierre Bonnard
Someone mentioned Bonnard the other day and the name brought on a rush of excitement. I first saw his work at the Royal Academy as an art student when I walked into a room crammed full of his paintings, covered with flicks of thick paint. I’d never seen so much colour in one space. You could breathe it, feel it, get drunk on it. There were landscapes, interiors, his wife in the bath. The light seemed to surround her, the water flecked with greens and blues. My own work is colourful. I used to blame Bonnard for my love of colour, but I’ve seen a lot more brilliant work since then.
2. Mona Hatoum
Mona’s work is about displacement, disorientation and loss. It’s all about separation. I first saw her work in Edinburgh and was intrigued by the metal cages and bare metal bedsteads in empty white rooms. I looked at the inscription on the wall and found that she too had studied at the Slade just a few years after I did. There is a hardness to the materials and an implied cruelty. She doesn’t need to make up conflict, she lives it.
3. Howard Hodgkin
I love Howard Hodgkin’s paintings. I envy his prowess. He is all about capturing events or personal memories of things seen. He is clever in a quiet way, no big deal. His paintings sometimes spill out onto the frames, full of energy, becoming an extension of the painting. I only found out recently that he painted a piece about a dinner party given by Bernard Cohen, one of my tutors at The Slade, and his wife, Jeanie. There are no figures in the painting, all you can see is a large table and a knee! He put down what was important to him. You have to see his paintings to believe them. They’re unforgettable, fresh every time.
4. Rachel Whiteread
Rachel works mainly with casts where she pours liquid plaster, concrete or resin, and waits for it to become solid. She does this to create a negative of a building or a staircase or bookshelf. I have seen some of these and they are spectacular. What she is doing is turning things inside out, making us see invisible spaces, spaces that have now become solid. I love her work. She is not a superficial artist. She does what she believes is obvious even if it is hidden. She is someone I would love to meet.
5. Tim Stead
Tim Stead worked with wood. Old beams from destroyed tenements, with their ancient nail marks. He reacted against things like conceptualism, minimalism, mass production. We were friends with Tim and his wife Maggy, often staying in their house where there was barely a cushion or soft furnishing in sight. We sat on chairs made by Tim and slept in a four poster bed; no ordinary four poster bed, it was one of Tim’s creations along with tables, cupboards, floors, stairs, bathroom sink … everything made from indigenous wood. I also love his pieces of sculpture and poetry. He wrote every night, Maggy tells me. Some of his writing is now published, but that happened after his premature death, when Maggy found his notebooks. His life was spent respecting wood as a living thing.
6. Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois’ art is tied to childhood memories. Not one thing in particular but a whole lot of things added together, such as loss, the responsibility of caring for her mother, her unfaithful father and the fear of being left alone. She drew two small ink spiders in 1947 and 50 years later she made a series of huge steel and bronze spider sculptures, big enough to fill a room. She had a thing about spiders; they’re predators as well as protectors.
7. David Hockney
Hockney is renowned for his swimming pool paintings and delicate line drawings. These are beautiful works without shading or tone, no decoration, nothing unnecessary. He travelled abroad and saw the light was flatter, less shadowy in hotter countries. His work is quite different from the American Realists, who, once they had a photograph, just copied it, producing an intense stillness. When Hockney paints he produces feeling, his work isn’t frozen. After he had spent some time making opera sets he left England for America and started making paper from rags, adding dyes, which produced vivid colour. He made moulds in which to press the paper pulp to make shapes. This was a new way of drawing for him and it led to a much bigger project, Paper Pools. He made a series of these and I find them very attractive.
8. Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin built an adobe and log home where she lived alone and without modern conveniences for a few years, then started painting again in 1973. She combined her geometric abstraction with the harbour landscape of East River Manhattan, and she did huge painted canvases covered in grids done in pencil and covered with layers of gesso. I think her work is a mixture of abstract expressionism and minimalism. A sort of combination of spirituality, from a mix of Zen Buddhism and American transcendental ideas. She was always good at using words but she kept herself private, like a mystic, in her own world. She managed to make what she thought impossible to understand.
Maggie Reeve is an artist and writer. Her short story ‘Flat Share’ appears in thi wurd magazine, Issue 4.