Painting has always been a part of life for Reif Myers (@reifaxl). Born in Hawaii, his childhood was spent hanging out at the beach and painting with his artist mum. Turning to his art heroes for inspiration, Reif spent his teens drawing and designing prints for board shorts, not knowing that these little sketches and drawings would later form his creative journey.
How did your journey to becoming an artist unfold?
I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember actually, my mum Jos Myers is a well-known artist back in Western Australia and I used to spend a few hours after school each day at her studio. She would give me a small canvas, make me a palette and let me do my thing, before she painted over the top. She taught me how to create shapes and mix colours. Mum loved collecting art too. Every wall in the house was filled with big, bright, colourful paintings by Peter Webb, Helen Norton, Mambo and her own wild pieces.
I guess I was influenced from a young age to like the style of art I enjoy painting today.
It looks like Basquiat and Mambo have inspired your artworks, how did you develop your own style?
I actually only discovered Basquiat for the first time when I was 18, after mum brought home a book from one of his museum collections in Switzerland. I was at Uni[versity] at this point, working bar jobs and painting on the side for my boardshorts brand, but it wasn't until I saw his artworks and style, that I realised that art didn't have to make sense. It gave me the inspiration to paint outside the lines, as I've never been good at realistic art, it just doesn't compute from my brain to hand. This is when I really started to enjoy painting too and thought it could be a better option than spending my nights behind a bar.
Mambo was always close to my heart too. I loved the recurring characters from Reg Mombassa’s artworks, the style is so recognisable and they are fun too, mostly funny. This is what I enjoy with this style of art, not only does it brighten the room, it can also give you a laugh and makes the mood not so serious.
You’ve ventured into fashion with your own board shorts brand, how different is it when working with clothing as opposed to a canvas?
Well it all kind of started together to be honest. The boardshorts started as a school project back in 2007 when I was 15. We had a year to create anything we wanted but we had to write a full report on the process, so I thought I’d choose something I was passionate about and something fun - which was art and surfing. My favourite boardshorts were a pair from Quicksilver painted by Peter Webb (I also had 3 pieces of his art in my house). My idea was to paint an Aussie themed artwork and turn it into a pair of boardshorts and write about the process.
The day after the presentation, I had a list of 20 people and their sizes, and Ocean Zone boardies became a legit[imate] business. Over the years I had a team of young artists around my age and below, who would design shorts for their age groups and it was our niche. Funnily, my first agent was the old Mambo rep though the 80s which was a trip. The design process is the same though. For the shorts, I usually just take a photo of one of my artworks and the printing process produce the artwork almost exactly onto the fabric. I’ve seen shorts from 2009 vintage, still walking around that look new.
What’s your favourite medium to use?
It’s always been acrylic. The way I paint is using layers on layers, on layers and with acrylic paint you only need to wait five minutes for it to dry, then go over the top. Also, you have about a minute to wash it off with a sponge if it doesn't look right! Mum uses oils and she’s offered to teach me, but I watch as her artwork takes days to dry… Someday I’ll give it a crack.
What’s a general day to day look like for you?
Since moving back to Bali last April, I’ve managed to escape the 9 to 5 timeline that I was spending in the studio back in Perth. Now I’m feeling pretty blessed and spoiled to be living back in Bali. I try to surf at least once a day for exercise and down time, and paint when I’m not in the water. I’ve managed to find an ideal balance of not working too much but getting a lot done at the same time. I’m really happy at the moment and it’s really starting to flow through into the paintings.
How intuitive is your art?
Kind of all over the above. Usually I will start with a subject matter and write a list of everything to do with that theme, but I never sketch what it will look like because the fun part is going freestyle. I start the painting with a sponge and a colour, sometimes with my eyes closed and go wild with it, then I start to balance out the colours, and that's when I step back and look for shapes that resemble items on the list. It gives the painting an abstract feel and a randomness to it, which makes it funny in a way.
When was the last time you had a buzz after you created something?
I always get a buzz after I finish a painting, because they take so bloody long to finish, but my latest buzz was announcing my latest show LIZARD MEN. I’ve been working flat out most days in my room, all summer, to build a collection but I had nowhere to show the artworks together. Which is when I discovered virtual exhibitions. It blew me away when I first saw the concept of a virtual art gallery and how cool the works looked on the wall. It gave me the opportunity to share the link online, and have people all over the world enjoy the show, from the comfort of their own home, via their phone or laptop. It is a great way to promote artwork and get it in front of more eyes - especially with travel restrictions at the moment.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve ever worked on?
Back in 2020 I had the opportunity to work with an interior designer for Rove Hotels at La Mer Beach in Dubai. This was during the beginning of the pandemic, so unfortunately, I wasn't able to physically be there and paint, but I was able to create seven artworks that would be used inside the hotel. One painting stretched across a 4.4 metre wall, as a giant mural and the other six were printed across 4-metre-tall surfboards back and front. I haven't visited yet but I will as soon as I can, I love Dubai.
What time period or decade would you go back to?
Put me in a time machine to 50 million BC and let me look at the dinosaurs, that would be a dream haha. Otherwise, I’d love to visit places like Bali back in the 60s and 70s, before they became popular tourist destinations. I always imagine what my favourite areas would have looked like 50 years ago, before they were built up and it’s a cool thought to visualise. I loooooove historic photos.
You’re at a party, what party food are you reaching for?
Mini sausage rolls!
Creatively, what’s something you had to unlearn?
To care too much about something on the canvas. Sometimes you paint something you love, but that same part of the painting halts you, from it progressing any further. When I shared a studio with mum, I would sit and look at my painting for hours, not doing anything, and would be genuinely stumped on how to progress. Every time I asked mum for advice on what I could do to fix it, she would always point to the part I’d like most on the canvas. It was hard to admit and paint over but she was right every time. So, learning to not attach myself to anything on the canvas was a valuable lesson she taught me.
What’s next? What are you most excited about for the future?
I’m excited to be developing more art! I am building a little art studio here in Bali and basing myself here for a while, and shipping my works overseas. The dream would be to have exhibits in Japan, Europe and the U.S, so they are my high goals that I’ve set myself but I’m going to have fun with it and see if that’s where my path leads me.