Heavily versed in colour theory and perception and inspired by music festivals, vision mapping, and neon signs, Rhys’ work is a vibrant explosion of geometric illusions. Encouraged to pursue art professionally by his mother, Rhys received his Bachelor of Fine Arts with distinction from the Alberta University of the Arts in 2015. While a student, he was signed with the Herringer Kiss Gallery and Canadian Art Magazine referred to his first solo show as a “Must See”. Since graduating, Rhys has completed several public art projects as well as three international residencies in Spain, Sicily, and Malaysia.
Alongside fellow artist, Michelle Hoogveld, the duo created Oplandia — a completely immersive, floor-to-ceiling mural that spans across an entire room. We wanted to catch up with Rhys to learn more about Oplandia and what is next for the 27-year-old artist, so we gave him a call.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A WORK IS FINISHED?
That’s a very good question. When I’m in the preliminary stages of planning a design it includes the finished result that I want. I’m usually trying to accomplish something with every painting so once I get there I am usually pretty satisfied. I know I’m finished when there is a good balance of colour and shape.
AS WE WERE WORKING ON THE INSTALL OF #CHROMAYEG, PEOPLE KEPT STOPPING TO ASK WHAT IT WAS. HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN IT?
The goal of CHROMA as a whole is to bring attention to public art in non-traditional settings. You usually find art of this nature outside or in less commercial spaces, but because it is in a mall it’s almost imposed on people. They are forced to see it, and interact with it and be affected by it. Oplandia is more so about transforming a space into something completely different. The end result looks more like a rendering or a photoshop creation than an installation. We wanted the name to convey that. With all the bright colours and shapes, Oplandia is more like a candy land than a real place.
HOW WAS WORKING ON #CHROMAYEG DIFFERENT THAN #CHROMAYYC?
For the installation in Southcentre, most of the artists worked individually. Everyone kind of had their own section and different schedules. Michelle and I never painted together during the first project but we decided we would do everything together for #CHROMAYEG — from the drive down to the Airbnb. The space was also much bigger and we even painted the floors this time. We will probably work on another collaboration again. The process went really well and I think our work complements one another.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE?
Everything went pretty smoothly. Michelle and I both make work featuring optical illusions so we spent seven really long days creating an entire room that worked off of different effects and shapes — there are triangles, stripes, hexagons, and the big heart piece that Michelle created.
HOW DID YOU STAY MOTIVATED TO WORK ON SUCH A LARGE PROJECT?
What is really motivating about CHROMA is the process. There is so much planning and talking and meetings that go into it. Discussing what someone likes and what you like and then playing around with different ideas before you finalize everything. The build-up to actually painting is definitely inspiring. I really like working on big projects like this. Whether it be a room or a hallway. Working with any untouched area or 3D structure or surface is pretty inspiring and motivating. It’s something new and fun. You aren’t repeating yourself.
WHAT PROJECTS OR ARTISTIC GOALS DO YOU HAVE LINED UP FOR 2020?
I am doing a public art project in Calgary on the Avli on Atlantic condo building this March. I definitely want to do more traveling in 2020. I’d like to get away and paint more murals in different countries. I’m also trying to have a show in Singapore but I’m still working on the details for that.
IS THERE A PIECE OF ART YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF FROM THIS YEAR?
Oplandia. It’s the biggest project I completed this year. I also did a residency at the beginning of the year in Malaysia and that is another 2019 highlight.