Louis Reith is an artist and graphic designer from Amsterdam. His monochromatic collages explore how shapes can be translated within a composition. This strong aesthetic runs throughout his art. Thematic environments, both internal and external, are often disrupted by inert and abstracted shapes. For instance, collaged shapes may communicate the architectural forms from elsewhere in the composition [Endless Isles series, 2012].
Re imagining black & white photographs as geometric landscapes or fabricating vintage maps to create mountain ranges, Reith re-appropriates found objects in his artistic vision. Throughout Reith’s series, he repurposes pages from books and reinvents their composition by playing with (typo)graphic forms collaged above. The graphic elements of these abstractions sits in parallel to the natural, untouched image below. While his collaged simple shapes may obscure our vision of the photograph they somehow do not compete with it.
Reith exhibited his work in group shows world wide, as well as solo and duo shows in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Los Angeles and Nashville. He is also founder and owner of the independent publishing house Jordskred, which focus is on publishing artist books, prints, zines and music.
We caught up with him to find out more.
Q&A with Louis Reith
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I think practising graphic design still has a huge effect on my artwork. Designing books, record covers and posters (that’s mostly what I do for commercial projects) very often generate new idea’s for art pieces. I also get a lot of inspiration by artists that work within different fields like sculpture and painting. Music plays a big role in the sense of moods. For example my latest series of collages called Nachttuin (Nocturnal Garden in Dutch), is very jazz orientated.
Describe your art in three words.
I don’t know… Serene, graphic and abstract? Mixed media art? I don’t necessarily consider myself a collage artist.
Who is your favourite artist?
There are too many but to name one… Brent Wadden is definitely one of my favourite artists. I know the guy for five years now and he just keeps amaze me with his work. If you ever get the chance to see his work in real life, go!
And I recently discovered the work of German artist Claudia Wieser which really blew me away. I’m thinking about traveling to Düsseldorf in May to visit her upcoming solo exhibition at Sies + Höke Galerie. I especially love her way of creating and installing exhibitions. The same goes for Dutch artist Mark Manders. As a publisher at Roma Publications he even approaches books as small exhibitions which I find very interesting.
Your series are beautifully synced and coherent, employing similar visual shapes and aesthetics, would you ever consider drastically changing this?
To be honest it took me quite some time to find liberation in my work. But now working within these series is a deliberate choice. It keeps me focussed on a certain subject and gives me the chance to elaborate my pieces. Even though shapes return, my work has changed throughout the years. It became more layered and more sculptural. Deep down I might want to be a sculptor.
How do you decide what to collage, do you have a particular image in your head what an artwork will look like, or does the idea develop on the page?
I always select my material very carefully. I browse through my books until I find a page with a strong but open composition and a certain mood. From there it’s a trial and error process… Making small and fast sketches of shapes and compositions and moving around with pieces of paper. Sometimes you’ll even find scars of errors; pieces I cut out and placed back to its original place.
Your series often feature ‘found book pages’, which are manipulated and changed by collage, is there a reason you use such anonymously owned books?
It’s just something that has developed throughout the years. From using paper structures to give digital designs and illustrations more soul as a young student, to reversing that process by drawing directly on old paper, old book pages. It was actually a very practical choice. But I also think it rises from the idea that people want to leave something behind in this world. My work is often described as pages of old books yet to be written. I really like that concept. As if I’m rewriting history with elements from the future.
Your use of collage and abstracted shapes seem to mirror and echo the geometric forms of the photograph below, could you tell us a little more about what the collage aspects of your works aim to add/subtract to the meaning of your work?
I used to work with words as a fundament for my pieces. Letters from words I selected within a theme were translated to shapes which I used to build up compositions. It was a reaction to my graphic design studies to make our visual language abstract and to stop communicating directly with words. In Avalanche, my installation at NSAG, for example you can find words like ‘sneeuw’ (snow), ‘natuur’ (nature), ‘donker’ (darkness) and ‘lawine’ (avalanche). But this “rule” started to fade more and more. I began to use words from different languages, flip letters around or mix words. Nowadays I really try to focus on the image I’m using and work with its composition.
What is your process when working? Do you have any quirky routines which help you create?
Getting started has always been very difficult for me. I hardly work during the morning. Even when I had a studio (at the moment I’m working at home) I spend my mornings getting rid of distractions like emails and putting a playlist of music together. But during ideal days I get up very early, fix myself a coffee, no emails in my inbox, a new record that I’m already listing to the whole week and I get started. When I’m working time becomes fluid. It’s as if I’m in a parallel universe. I think I’m pacing up and down a lot around the table to see my pieces from different angles and I always lose my tools between piles of books and pages.
Where would you love to see your work exhibited?
My dad unintentionally promoted my work at a local gallery / residency in Enschede, his hometown and the city were I studied. It’s a beautiful building in the middle of a park were he walks his dog. He’s always been the type of guy that goes out to talk with the neighbours or random people. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing but in this case he’s determined to get me in. There are hundreds of galleries and museums, in the biggest cities of the world were I would love to show my work but this particular place has something special. It’s a beautiful space and it would make my dad proud. He’s a very important person to me, also when it comes to my work.
What can we expect from your next series?
At the moment I’m expanding the Nachttuin series with new collages from book pages of various garden books. But I’m also figuring out how to make bigger works. I recently got invited for a project I’m very excited about, which could help me make this proces go a bit faster. The project is called De Torenkamer (The Tower Room) by Opium op 4, a Dutch radio show about art. Every week they invite an artist to lock themselves in a big studio for five days to create a piece they always wanted to make. I’m going to work on an installation as an extension of Nachttuin. Everyday I’ll be interviewed by phone and I have to keep a blog about the progress. On the fifth day my work will be presented to the public.
Images courtesy of Louis Reith
Image 1 - Selection of an ongoing series (Nachttuin *4), 2013
Image 2 - Selection of an ongoing series (Nachttuin *1), 2013
Image 3 - Untitled (Nachttuin *7), 2014
Image 4 - Selection of an ungoing series (Endless Isles), 2012
Image 5 - Untitled (Nachttuin *10), 2014
Image 6 - Untitled (Nachttuin *6), 2014