Studio Spaces: Rick Reynolds

Creative space: Sculptor and painter Rick Reynolds in the studio space he built himself. Photos: Scott Calvin.
Creative space: Sculptor and painter Rick Reynolds in the studio space he built himself. Photos: Scott Calvin.

Life as a sculptor means Rick Reynolds has accumulated plenty of materials over the years.

He's also held on to some of his works that can be found spread across his Elands property.

The space gives him flexibility when it comes to where and how he works and he has three main areas that he utilises.

His indoor studio is one he built himself, and includes a big table, some supplies and tools for sculpting but also a couple of easels and paint supplies, because he also likes to paint and has been getting into life drawing.

"It's just a shed, really," he said of the indoor studio.

The thing you need is a table. You need a good, decent flat area to work on. That's probably the main tool. When you do anything, you need a base.

Rick Reynolds

"This room gets very hot. I have the doors and have a fan going but no real insulation," he said.

"Most of my work I do just out in the yard, and have bits and pieces all over the place."

He has a shed and work space outside that he's planning to put a roof over and turn it into a place he does his welding.

"The thing you need is a table. You need a good, decent flat area to work on. That's probably the main tool. When you do anything, you need a base."

Then there is the outdoor space, where he stores some old sculptures as well as materials he is yet to work with.

"I was going to build a studio here but I haven't got around to that yet. It's been a long time, but this is where the old sculptures go to die," he mused.

Rick works mainly in steel and timber.

"A lot of steel sculpture is made because you can get relatively cheap second hand material. So there’s a lot of sculptures made out of recycled steel.

"The material costs are always a very big part of the process, and the tools and everything else you’ve got to keep, including gas, that’s expensive."

Rick's work is well known in Taree, with two stand-out sculptures in Victoria Street - the timber goanna (made from forest logs) and a steel structure called Balancing Act.

He's also had works on display in the front yard of the Manning Regional Art Gallery over the years, including a large-scale star made from yellow reflective road signs.

The conical structure, called The Port Gateway, placed at the roundabout at the entry to Port Macquarie and another sculpture called 'Folly', aka The Pencil, at Port's Windmill Hill are also his work.

"Mostly public sculptures I've been involved with have some controversy. They're made controversial, unnecessarily generally."

When commissioned to do a work he receives a brief with a concept but he said in the end it is the viewer who gives their own meaning to the finished work.

He said the steel Balancing Act sculpture in Taree became embroiled in controversy because of the woman on the bottom.

"Someone thought it wasn’t suitable for Taree because it depicted a woman with too much weight being put on her shoulders.

It’s like building. I use a chainsaw and chisels and grinders, it just depends what you’re doing. I cut and weld a bit, and other things like carving.

Rick Reynolds

"I was really thinking of my mother and my family and that woman mostly do take most of the psychological weight anyway. I suppose, that’s how it used to be anyway.

"I thought I was getting into the feminism and then get accused of putting all this weight on women’s shoulders. But it’s all steel. These things aren’t women."

Most of what he creates are assemblages.

"It’s like building. I use a chainsaw and chisels and grinders, it just depends what you’re doing. I cut and weld a bit, and other things like carving." 

Rick went to art school at Kogarah Tech in the 1960s, learning from the likes of Bert Flugelman.

He started entering Sculpture by the Sea (still going after 25 years) and said a lot of local councils got interested because they were such a big thing.

"I was in that a number of times. I haven’t done anything for 10 years so, I did the last one in 2008."

He then started putting in for commissions with local councils and started putting his works outside the Manning Regional Art Gallery.

"We tried often with stuff left over from Sculpture by the Sea, so I'd put it up outside the gallery and leave it there for a while."

He said it was the idea of then gallery director Sue Mitchell to have local sculptors or local artists generally, putting things outside the gallery.

Outside: Rick Reynolds with one of the steel sculptures that can be found on his Elands property.

Outside: Rick Reynolds with one of the steel sculptures that can be found on his Elands property.

Rick said if you establish a career in art and have a gallery representing you, there can be a lot of pressure to produce a particular line of work and that the big money earners in the art world are like production houses.

"They do amazing work, but you can have an idea, and that’s just a flash. But if you’ve got a crew who can come along and pick up your ideas and carry them out and you can be the impresario, then you know… it’s another way of doing it. There would be lots of pressure in that as well, like being a manager, really.

"It takes off the conceptual thing and that's the main thing, having ideas.

Sometimes you get an idea, and you stew on it for a while, and then it becomes pressing to do it so you work at it and then you’ve got to solve the problems of how to actually make it.

Rick Reynolds

"Once you run out of ideas it’s a bit of a slog but because I don’t really have a market, apart from the odd commission, I basically can do whatever turns up.

"Sometimes you get an idea, and you stew on it for a while, and then it becomes pressing to do it so you work at it and then you’ve got to solve the problems of how to actually make it.

"You’re lucky to get a commission, and it’s good having a commission because that’s good for ideas because you have a location. Once you have a location, you can sort of, that gives you reference."

He said you learn as you go along.

"There’s so much you can do. People should, if you want to do anything, just learn everything. Learn about the world, learn how to use a computer.

"Mostly stuff is easier and easier to use and you can always get other people to help you."

It is more common for sculptors to use engineers and other professionals to help make their works these days.

For Rick, his work includes a mainly "playing around."

"You have good days and bad days. A lot of it’s practice and a lot of it is just having the passion to do it.

"You can get burnt out but it’s sort of makes life more interesting, I don’t know, if you don’t have a hobby… and people are a bit funny about artists and artworks, but basically, there’s nothing magical about it.

"It does have a kind of magic element to it though, because you never really know what’s going to come about."

Rick has been living in Elands since 1970. 

"I've been to other places, obviously, but Elands has been my home, just not in this house all the time.

"I had a bush block in the Ellenborough valley and was there for quite a few years, and that was pretty isolated, but there was a beautiful river.

"I like Elands because it's just out of town, not too far away, you can get into town pretty easy."