Joel Rea

Joel Rea Painting

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Joel Rea Painting

Joel Rea is a highly acclaimed and multi award-winning artist known for his surreal, allegorical paintings. Rea’s oil on canvas works stand somewhere between genres of hyperrealism, photorealism and virtuosic Renaissance realism. From this amalgamation of influences, Rea has created a unique and recognisable style portraying social awareness and personal introspection through his impeccable execution of brush work detail.

Inspired by the mysteries of the animal kingdom and the Universe beyond, Rea’s meanings and narratives touch on the vast complexity of the human condition, presenting messages embracing the ageless turmoil of human inner consciousness and our species’ unwavering desire to survive. Rea combines contemporary visuals with qualities of the sublime in painting, provoking the deepest possible emotional response through technically achieved aesthetics. His imagery frequently depicts: self-portraits; tigers; dogs; sun rays coming through clouds; and destructive waves inspired by the turbulent Australian coastline where he played as a child.

Joel Rea Painting
Joel Rea Painting

In an article for the Huffington Post, Brandon Kralik writes – ‘Representational painting today is not what it used to be and cannot be dismissed as longing for the past or harkening back to the Romantics of the 19th century. Although Rea’s work shares an aesthetic with Romanticism this is not about going back at all. They take from the past and move us toward tomorrow.

He calls himself a Contemporary Surrealist Painter. Wikipedia describes Contemporary art as having developed from Postmodern art and although Joel Rea is very much alive and is dealing with issues of our present time, his work is far removed from the multimedia and purely conceptual work that has come to define Postmodernism and much of what is referred to as Contemporary art. To me Rea’s work moves in separate direction, one that is reconstructive, or Post Contemporary, as it places importance on craftsmanship and empathy. One thing for certain is that Rea’s paintings speak in a language where such words are not needed at all. There need be no artspeak to accompany them, to tell the viewer what is happening. The paintings speak for themselves.’

via Joel Rea’s Website


Joel Rea was born in 1983 and graduated from the Queensland College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 2003. He has exhibited his paintings through out Australia for the last 13 years featuring also in notable overseas exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Asia. Rea has been acclaimed for his oil paintings in many prestigious art awards held across Australia including most recently the Fleurieu Landscape Prize, The Mosman Art Award, The Sulman Prize and the 2016 Moran Prize for Portraiture.

Joel Rea
Joel Rea

Rea has won the 2013 ANL Maritime Art Award and the 2014 Black Swan Portraiture Prize People’s Choice Award. In 2015 Rea conducted a New York City residency and sell out solo exhibition at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery and the following year was selected alongside 60 renowned international artists in the world’s first Instagram Paintguide exhibition held in London.

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Brandon Kralik writes – ‘Representational painting today is not what it used to be and cannot be dismissed as longing for the past or harkening back to the Romantics of the 19th century. Although Rea’s work shares an aesthetic with Romanticism this is not about going back at all. They take from the past and move us toward tomorrow. He calls himself a Contemporary Surrealist Painter.

Wikipedia describes Contemporary art as having developed from Postmodern art and although Joel Rea is very much alive and is dealing with issues of our present time, his work is far removed from the multimedia and purely conceptual work that has come to define Postmodernism and much of what is referred to as Contemporary art. To me Rea’s work moves in separate direction, one that is reconstructive, or Post Contemporary, as it places importance on craftsmanship and empathy.

One thing for certain is that Rea’s paintings speak in a language where such words are not needed at all. There need be no artspeak to accompany them, to tell the viewer what is happening. The paintings speak for themselves.‘ September, 2015.


THE SURFERS JOURNAL FEATURE
May, 2021. Joel Rea is featured in an eight page article in the Vol 30.2 April/May issue of The Surfers Journal with story written by Tim Baker.

“The ocean is a powerful presence in Rea’s work: abstract waves that wrap around animal skulls like shrouds, mountainous peaks that threaten to engulf families and bodysurfers and businessmen, tidal surges as destructive as they are alluring that sweep over entire coastlines…”


There’s no indication from the street of what goes on behind a tidy garden of palms and hedges in front of an otherwise unremarkable yellow-brick and red-tiled suburban home in the Gold Coast hinterland. But inside, an unfathomable world dwells in the small downstairs studio of artist and surfer Joel Rea.

On any given day, Rea might find himself swept up in tidal waves or struggling to keep his head above water as he’s stalked by sharks. He might be floating through space, teetering from the edge of a cliff, wrestling with massive blobs of Blu-Tack, fleeing giant dogs, or engaged in a tug-of-war with alternative versions of himself—all on the canvas.

Rea was told from an early age that if he ever wanted to make it as an artist, he’d have to move away from his beloved Gold Coast, the surf- and sun-drenched holiday town on Australia’s east coast that’s often derided as a cultural wasteland. The young painter set about proving the naysayers wrong, and made it he certainly has.

Rea’s fine-art depictions of both worldly and otherworldly struggles have won him many of the major art prizes in Australia, and he’s staged exhibitions in London, New York, LA, Berlin, and Singapore. In fact, it might be in his own hometown where he commands the least amount of attention.

“It’s such a Gold Coast thing to be a world-renowned artist, but not be known on the Gold Coast,” says Rea. “Because of the way I’ve shaped my career, a lot of people assume I’m from the US. And that’s fine. But I have a real pride in coming from the Gold Coast, simply because I did make it from here.”

Rea’s family moved to Australia from England when he was 2 years old, giving him an outsider’s view of the world early on. Rea’s uncle, Murray Bourton, is a legendary surfboard shaper whose Pipedream label was ubiquitous on the Gold Coast in the 1980s and 90s, with a shop in Coolangatta. His cousin, Chris Rea, was a successful musician, best known for his 80s hit “On the Beach.” Both relatives instilled in Rea the idea that it was possible to make an independent living built from one’s own creative powers, but the latter’s efforts also might well have provided the soundtrack for his adolescence.

“There was a lot of beach time, because it’s free,” Rea says.

“I didn’t come from wealthy parents. Whatever we did, it was around the beach. I started out by hitting the shorebreak on a McDonald’s tray, then later my mate’s dad would take us to D-bah early every morning.”

Rea attended Palm Beach Currumbin State High School, where the surfing-excellence program produced star alumni like Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, and Dean Morrison. While at university, Rea supported himself with a job at a chicken shop, which he chucked upon graduation to pursue the far-fetched dream of making a living from his art.

“I went to an agency,” he says, “and they said, ‘You have to move from the Gold Coast if you want a career in the arts. Move to Sydney or Melbourne.’ I just went, ‘I’m not. I love it here. I’ve got a girlfriend here and my parents here.’ It’s sad that that’s what a lot of people get told, and they give up—that gives them that excuse to give up. I saw it as a challenge.”

Quickly thereafter, another Gold Coast artist, Dean Cogle, was drawn to Rea’s work and invited him to hang some paintings at an exhibition he was having. Rea sold two paintings for $1,000 and spent the lot on art supplies. Soon he was working as an animator, with part-time jobs at a gallery and as an assistant to another artist, as well as painting his own commissions. Before he knew it, Rea was making a living as a full-time artist, and he’s never looked back.

“It’s not where you are, it’s what you’re willing to do,” he says. “I’d say that to anyone, especially the way the internet’s opened up things. There’s no more gatekeepers stopping you from exposing your work to everyone who’s willing to receive it.”

The other battle Rea waged was between his own artistic ambitions and his more kicked-back surf and skate lifestyle, a clash he often portrays in his work.

“I was brought up around a lot of cruisy people who just surfed and stuff,” he says. “That lifestyle was really attractive, having as little tying you down as possible. You are captive to your possessions and your home and your debts.”

A painting titled Return to Genesis depicts this dilemma in the form of a piece of red material being fought over by three dogs as they rise through the sky. “That’s me getting pulled in all directions—my ambition, my chilled-out self, wanting to skate, wanting to surf. It’s hard when you want to do heaps of everything in life,” he says.

It’s difficult to say which has won out, or if his competing identities have reached an uneasy truce. Rea will painstakingly labor over a canvas, rendering meticulous photorealistic detail in supernatural settings, then, just as naturally, duck outside for a skate or head down the road for a quick surf check.

Unsurprisingly, the ocean is a powerful presence in Rea’s work: abstract waves that wrap around animal skulls like shrouds, mountainous peaks that threaten to engulf families and bodysurfers and businessmen, tidal surges as destructive as they are alluring that sweep over entire coastlines.

“When two beautiful things come together, it can be a beautiful end; imagine just kicking back and watching that,” he says of his painting A Beautiful End, which hints at looming climate catastrophe and rising sea levels, an image that seems both disturbingly prescient and hauntingly attractive.

His ocean-inspired art brings to mind the abstract seascapes of photographers like Jon Frank and Ray Collins.

“It’s a force constantly pushing you back,” says Rea. “The cool thing about surfing is that it’s like a martial art. You tend to use its energy, and then you’re on its energy. I’m pointing out that even mundane, uninteresting waves are fascinating and weird and full of color—bursts of glass-like structures. It will never happen again. Every wave is a weird, spontaneous form, and then it’s dead.”

Rea has also turned his focus to the people who define his lifestyle and home. In 2018, he teamed up with his former schoolmate Fanning to produce a portrait of the three-time world champ on the occasion of his retirement from the pro tour. Edge of Infinity depicts Fanning standing on the end of a precipice, gazing up at the viewer, wetsuit pulled down to his waist, a boiling ocean beneath him stretching off into a star-filled night sky.

“I said to him, ‘I want you to wear the wetsuit, but I don’t want to be able to tell if you’re taking it off or putting it on. You’re retiring, but you’re not quitting surfing,’” says Rea. “As an afterthought, instead of just continuing the ocean as an ocean, I let it float off into the galaxy to give it a sense of being this rolling infinity.”

For all the inspiration gleaned from the ocean and surfing, it was a New York City streetscape, titled Crossroads, that really catapulted Rea’s career to another level. In it, an oversize tiger stands on a street corner while being observed impassively by passersby, all while a naked baby dashes across a pedestrian crossing.

It’s an intricate image unsettling in its stunning photorealism and sheer improbability.

“When I released that painting,” says Rea, “it had an effect I’d never seen before and I might never capture again. I couldn’t even keep up with the number of outlets sharing it; it was like a viral painting. And to me, that recognition was important. To me, it’s a seminal statement painting where I can show people my versatility—that I can go to the city and I can paint the city.”

The sale of his 2018 painting High Hopes, of a tiger attempting to catch a missile high above Earth’s surface, to Joe Rogan similarly sent his work and reputation into the stratosphere. Singer Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child recently invited him out to dinner “to pick my brain,” Rea says. And who can blame her? If Rea’s artwork is a window to his mind, there’s plenty there to pick through. Thematically, Rea identifies with surrealism, despite some reservations.

“I don’t do melting clocks,” he says. “It’s not a passage to psychedelic craziness.”

But Rea is comfortable with what he calls the sublime school of art.

“It’s like this combination of fear and beauty,” he says. “The two can be used with each other to evoke the most extreme emotion possible. I feel that’s what I’m doing in scenarios where these beautiful waves are coming to kill you. I look at surrealism as just that slight nudge away from reality. It’s art doing what art can do. A painting can take you from safety to unsafe, from the rules of the universe to breaking the rules. All of a sudden, nothing makes sense, and hair turns into snakes. I like that.”

Joel Rea Painting
Joel Rea Painting

via: surfersjournal.com


 

CV

Joel Rea
b.1983
Lives and works on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Studies
2001 – 2003
Bachelor of Fine Art Graduate, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University

 

AWARDS & PRIZES

2020 Awarded the Vice Chancellor Portrait Commission for The University of Sydney permanent collection.
2020 Finalist, Brisbane Portrait Prize, The Powerhouse, Brisbane
2020 Finalist, Lethbridge 20000 Art Award, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
2019 Winner, Brisbane Portrait Prize, People’s Choice Award, The Powerhouse, Brisbane
2018 Finalist, Fisher’s Ghost Art Award, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney
2016 Finalist, Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Juniper Hall, Sydney
2016 Finalist, Mosman Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney
2014 Winner, Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, People’s Choice Award, Perth
2014 Finalist, Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2013 Winner, ANL Maritime Art Award, Melbourne
2013 Finalist, Fleurieu Art Prize, Adelaide
2013 Finalist, Salon Des Refuses, Archibald Prize, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
2013 Finalist, Black Swan Prize for Portraiture, Perth
2012 Semi-Finalist, Moran Portrait Prize, Sydney
2012 Highly Commended, Clayton Utz Art Award, Brisbane
2011 Highly Commended, Metro Art Award, Metro Gallery, Melbourne
2011 Winner, Gold Coast Rotary Young Achiever in Vocational Excellence, Fine Art
2011 Finalist, Prometheus Visual Art Award, Gold Coast
2011 Finalist, Clayton Utz Art Award, Brisbane
2010 Finalist, Metro Art Award, Metro Gallery, Melbourne
2010 Finalist, Redland Gallery Art Award, Biennial Contemporary Painting Competition, Cleveland
2003 Awarded Golden Key International Honour Society membership for outstanding scholastic achievement and excellence.
2003 Granted the Griffith Award for academic excellence in Fine Art, Queensland College of Art.

 

EXHIBITIONS

2020
University of Sydney Portrait Collection, Group Exhibition, The Great Hall, University of Sydney
Brisbane Portrait Prize, Finalists Exhibition, The Powerhouse, Brisbane
Lethbridge 20000, Finalists Exhibition, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
HOFA London, House of Fine Art Group Exhibition, Mayfair, London, UK
Art Wynwood, House if Fine Art Group Exhibition, Florida, USA
LA Art Show, House of Fine Art Group Exhibition, Los Angeles, USA
Antipodes, Beinart Gallery Group Exhibition, Melbourne

2019
Context Art Miami, House of Fine Art Group Exhibition, Miami, USA
Gaia – A Future Utopia, Beautiful Bizarre Group Exhibition, Urban Arts, Berlin, Germany
Brisbane Portrait Prize, Finalists Exhibition, The Powerhouse, Brisbane

2018
Fisher’s Ghost Art Award, Finalists Exhibition, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney
Director’s Choice, Group Exhibition, Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane
Spring Preview, Group Exhibition, The Unit London Gallery, London, UK
LA Art Show, Group Exhibition, Jonathan LeVine Projects, Los Angeles, USA

2017
Solo Exhibition, Outsider, Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane
Oceans Imaginaries, Group Exhibition, RMIT University Gallery, Melbourne
ArtStage Singapore, Mitchell Fine Art Group Exhibition, Singapore
Welcome To New Jersey, Inaugural Group Exhibition Opening Jonathan LeVine Projects, USA
Moran Portrait Prize Finalists Exhibition, Touring Australia Exhibition, Gosford & Canberra
Iconoclasts, Group Exhibition, Umbrella Contemporary Arts, Townsville, Queensland
Iconoclasts, Group Exhibition, Kick Arts Contemporary, Cairns, Queensland

2016
Juxtapoz Clubhouse, Jonathan LeVine Gallery Group Show, Miami, USA.
Director’s Choice, Group Exhibition, Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane
Mosman Prize, Finalists Exhibition, Sydney
Moran Portrait Prize, Finalists Exhibition, Juniper Hall, Sydney

2015
Solo Exhibition, Beasts of Arcadia, Jonathan LeVine Gallery, New York, USA
Paintguide, International Instagram Group Exhibition, The Unit Gallery, Soho, London, UK
Cutback: Surfing Through Art, Group Exhibition, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Gold Coast

2014
Solo Exhibition, Eternal, Gallery One, Gold Coast
Conquest of Space: Science Fiction and Contemporary Art, COFA, UNSW, Sydney
Based on Actual Events, Group Exhibition, Jonathan Levine Gallery, New York, USA
Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Solo Exhibition, The Other Side, Gallery One, Melbourne Art Fair, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Black Swan Portrait Prize, Finalists Exhibition, Perth

2013
Solo Exhibition, Beneath the Blue, Gallery One, Gold Coast
Another Time Another Place, Group Exhibition, Metro Gallery, Melbourne
Fleurieu Art Prize, Finalists Exhibition, Adelaide
Maritime Art Award, Finalists Exhibition, Melbourne
Black Swan Portrait Prize, Finalists Exhibition, Perth
Salon Des Refuses, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney

2012
Solo Exhibition, Existence of Reality, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
Art on Art, Group Exhibition, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Gold Coast
San Diego Contemporary Art Fair, California, USA
Clayton Utz Art Award Finalists Exhibition, Brisbane
Art Melbourne 2012, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne

2011
Metro Gallery Art Award Finalists Exhibition, Melbourne
Art Melbourne11, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Clayton Utz Art Award Finalists Exhibition, Brisbane
Lethbridge 10000 Art Award Finalists Exhibition, Brisbane
Prometheus Visual Art Award Finalists Exhibition, Gold Coast

2010
Solo Exhibition, Monuments and Miniatures, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
Art Sydney10, Royal Hall of Industries, Sydney
Redland Gallery Art Award, Biennial Contemporary Painting Competition, Finalists Exhibition, Cleveland
Metro Art Award Finalists Exhibition, Metro Gallery, Melbourne
Group Exhibition, Astras Galleries, Gold Coast
Netanya Resort Conference, Hastings Street, Noosa

2009
Solo Exhibition, The Balance Divine, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
New Paintings, Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, California, USA
Art Melbourne 09, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
New Paintings, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane

2008
Art Sydney08, Royal Hall of Industries, Sydney
Art Brisbane08, Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
Art Melbourne08, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
New Paintings, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane

2007
Solo Exhibition, Where There’s Fire, Art Melbourne07, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Art Sydney07, Royal Hall of Industries, Sydney
New Paintings, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
Art Melbourne07, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne

2006
Solo Exhibition, High Fidelity, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
Sajen Legal Art Show, Maroochydore, Sunshine Coast
Art Melbourne06, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
New Paintings, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
St. Margaret’s Art Show, Ascot, Brisbane
Art Sydney06, Royal Hall of Industries, Sydney

2005
Brisbane Art Fair, Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
Art Sydney05, Royal Hall of Industries, Sydney
Melbourne Affordable Art Show, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
New Paintings, Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane

2004
Mentorship, Brett Lethbridge, Brisbane
Departure Lounge Group Exhibition, Gold Coast
Border Art Prize, Tweed River Art Gallery

 

TRAVEL/GALLERY RESEARCH

2008
Musee Du Louvre / Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France. The National Gallery, London, England. Guggenheim, Venice, Italy. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Uffizi Gallery / Galleria Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy. Dali Museum, Barcelona, Spain.
2015
United States, New York City Residency and Solo Exhibition.


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