James Reka – Floriana

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James Reka’s latest show, Floriana, opens at Backwoods Gallery, Melbourne this week. The Australian artist returns to his hometown for the first time in six years for this body of work, completed partly at his studio in Malta, and in residence at the gallery.

As part of the original Everfresh Crew, Reka initially made his mark in the laneways and train lines of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs where he spent over a decade developing his surrealist style. Working across bold colour palettes that are defined by their themes in each body of work, Reka’s nods to classical cubism are enhanced with technical layers and details that disclose the history of his urban canvases as much as they tell the stories of his characters.

Reka’s work is both fastidious and expressive in its outcome, a duality his content contains too, sitting somewhere between the familiar and warm, and distantly observational in depth. The paradox extends further in tensions between graphic design and graffiti, and pop-simplicity and abstract geometry.

Twisting together a mix of hedonism, still life in his neo-classic fine art, Reka’s studies are an examination of the human psyche, our habits, habitat, gaze, and lifestyles.

‘A junction of humanity and natural forces, “Floriana” represents the intersection of my life with the innate forces of the Mediterranean – people and nature. A metaphor of my artistic journey and stylistic evolution, inspired by ancient customs and the barren natural elements of the region.’

‘Using canvas and ceramic media, I have sought to reflect the inspiration of living on the ancient Mediterranean Sea – the cradle of civilisation – itself a symbol of energy, creativity and of the search for the meaning of life, for wisdom and the love of family.’

‘This exhibition documents my personal journey of the last 3 years, relocating to the Maltese Islands. “Floriana” – Latin for blossoming and prosperous – is the region of Malta where I paint, inspired by core Mediterranean values, of groups congregating outdoors in piazza celebrating life, of family focused around seafood, bowls of marinated olives, wine & the ritual of basking next to the azure blue Mediterranean Sea. I have explored sun-drenched barren landscapes – massive limestone rocks, olive trees and prickly pear. The dominant theme is the saturation of colour from the omnipresent blue sky, the terracotta of the soil and the muted greens of succulents & cacti.’

‘I have deliberately held a stronger focus on the abstraction of subject-matter, inspired by the geometric blocks and limestone megaliths of the Mediterranean with horizontal and vertical lines intersecting through the pieces – while the figurative content is inspired by the Venus-like statues of Fertility Goddesses, discovered in the ancient temples of Malta. The execution of my work in acrylic and spray paint, using canvas and ceramic urns, is designed to embrace the matte textures of the ancient, weathered limestone and granite of the region and the muted palette of the soil, rather than a bright and verdant backdrop.’

– James Reka

Opening Night : Friday April 19th 6~9 PM

Exhibition runs 19.04.24 ~ 05.05.24

Backwoods Gallery, 25 Easey Street, Collingwood, VIC, Australia




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