Interview: Lauchie Reid
January 30th, 2012
Painter and illustrator Lauchie Reid (of the bizarro art collective, Team Macho) chats with The Block about the meaning of fine art, the brilliance of Queen, and his love of secrets.
The Block: Tell us about the zine you started in college, Tiger Press Books.
Lauchie Reid: My friend Stephen Appleby Barr and I started doing zines under the name Tigerpress Books during the summer before our final year in college. We really liked the idea of independently released and hand made things and saw a great culture surrounding that in Toronto. We also liked the idea of working together on a project and sharing sensibilities. Our books were about cat burglars, a mummy, and the third dog in space. We didn’t know what to write in our first one about cat burglars so we decided that it would be better in German. We don’t speak German, but the words looked great. It was great fun and really well received. It sort of set the ball rolling for Team Macho, as it proved our instincts that art/illustration folks should band together and thrive instead of letting ego and auteur-ship get in the way
TB: With Team Macho you’ve had this incredible opportunity to do exhibitions in New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and so many other amazing cities. What have been some of you’re favorite inspiring places you’ve visited through exhibitions?
LR: Amsterdam was incredible. The gallery we were with set us up in a houseboat on the Amstel, which just fit into our narrative beautifully. It was November, so the water was really rough at times. It made it feel like we were really on a voyage. Plus the city is outstandingly beautiful and the people were all tall, friendly and gorgeous. Our first show in New York with Giant Robot was amazing too. We did all the things. And we always enjoy our work-related trips to Montreal, as it may be, scientifically speaking*, the most fun city in the whole world to spend two days in.
*not scientifically proven
TB: Do you think that being raised in Canada has had any impression on your work?
LR: I think so. I grew up pretty far north in a pretty dodgy city called Thunder Bay. It’s incredible natural grandiosity juxtaposed with it’s mind-blowingly backward, shockingly awful social problems instilled me with a huge appreciation for big, raw, aloof natural settings and a deep-seated interest in the way people interact. Specifically how they can be awful or amazing given context.
TB: What would you say is the biggest difference between working in a collective, and working by yourself?
LR: The distinct lack of other people. Also, the idea that you have to go it alone and are 100% accountable for your decisions. It’s pretty lonely though. Working with Team Macho, there’s this definite sense of purpose and you can sound out ideas while shouting out Queen songs across our giant messy space. Working alone is a lot more meditative and precise, but you can still sing Queen if you want to.
TB: What music do you listen to when you’re working?
LR: Well, Queen, obviously. And a healthy mix of German power metal like Blind Guardian, good Toronto music by like-minded friends like Owen Pallett, Diamond Rings, and the Hidden Cameras. And hundreds of hours of audio books about science, cryptography, and economy in 15th century Europe. You know… The usual
TB: When you think back to doing your Illustration degree, what are some of your stand out nuggets of wisdom you learned in school?
LR: Your first ten thousand paintings are always your worst, When painting, you should always start with a broom and finish with a toothpick, and remember that you are not your work.
There has been a lot of discussion, at my school at least, about whether or not illustration is considered a part of fine arts, based mostly on the sticky discussion of commerce. I personally believe that it is art.
TB: What do you think?
LR: How is the commonly conceived “fine art” in the world not commercial? It’s a giant, unregulated speculative investment machine, second only to the drug trade in profitability. I think that the dichotomy between fine art and illustration resting on commerce is bullshit. You could say that intent is really at the centre of the debate, but that’s also pretty dodgy. I always tend to look at it like this: Was it made in way that it needs to be accompanying/accompanied by a body of text that it supports/is supported by? It’s illustration. Can it be talked about and written about but doesn’t need to be to be enjoyed? It might be art?
TB: What artists inspire you?
LR: My main painting interests are Sargent, Velazquez, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Whistler, Freud et al. I’ve always really liked figurative painting, even when I was studying illustration. It’s just incredibly compelling. I don’t pay a lot of attention to contemporary art. Things where craft and dedication are apparent always excite me, like Nicholas di Genova or Heather Goodchild (both from Toronto). I find things that are intentionally aloof and obtuse to be maddeningly boring
TB: From most of the fine print I’ve read under your work I’ve noticed that you work a lot in oil. What’s the charm in this medium for you?
LR: The connection to history feel very apparent when working in oil. It helps me to understand the thinking behind a lot of my favorite work. It’s also just really pleasant to work in and can achieve so many subtle and beautiful effects. Acrylic paints just feel too much like the product of their era. And they gum up quickly and tend to feel flat.
TB: Your work tends to have figures, sometimes masked, situated in front of vague backgrounds. What are they thinking about?
TB: Your paintings are generally quite small. Is it an attempt to pull the viewer into a secret?
LR: See above. I think working smaller has a few benefits to it though. As you point out, it helps to pull people into a painting a bit more when it’s more diminutive and can be easily beheld. It also allows me to work on a bit faster timeline and is really challenging (sometimes maddeningly so) to paint. I have plans to work on larger things very soon, but the thought of working on a four six foot painting with a brush the size of a toothpick kind of gives me the horrors.
TB: If you could be from any era what era would it be?
LR: Probably the Enlightenment? Provided I didn’t get the plague… Or about a hundred and fifty years ago, when painting was actually a job still.
TB: If you can imagine yourself being anything other than an artist, what would you be doing?
LR: Lumberjack. Or carpenter. Or maybe a farmer? Something where I could draw a huge amount of satisfaction from process.
TB: What’s next?
LR: Next is a big series of projects with Team Macho. One with a museum and possibly another show in Europe? Paris, we hope. And more paintings to be produced constantly. And one amazing secret thing that’s going to take a good bit of time, but excites me incredibly.
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