A Captive Audience? by David Reekie, 2001
A band of naked figures stands rooted to the spot, each the clone of his neighbour, each indistinguishable from his neighbour, all hemmed in by a barrier and trapped on a confining platform. Seven of the figures face forward, but the eighth, at the back and unseen by his companions, has turned his head. He looks outside the barrier, perhaps hoping for a world with fewer rules and restrictions. Or is there no escape?
A glass artist and modern-day caricaturist, David Reekie has been obsessed by the human figure and its variety of facial expressions since the late 1970s. These figures, either singly or in small groups, convey stories that engage, amuse, shock and even haunt the viewer. Reekie’s work is coloured by his personal view of the world and his own experiences – some clearly political, others offering an interesting insight into the human condition.
An opponent of Conservatism under Margaret Thatcher, Reekie witnessed what he considered to be a disintegration of the individual and its place in society. In his depiction of humdrum situations and our all-too-often indecisive or inadequate responses, Reekie is prepared to chance a degree of explicit political statement which is rare in glass art. His chosen technique has attendant risks too.
'A piece of my work can take as much as six weeks to make, but it always begins with the germ of an idea that I have previously recorded in simple images in a sketchbook. When an idea is properly developed and the form of the sculpture is fully conceived, I feel a sense of satisfaction and a need to go on further and make the piece. Most of my recent work has been made using the lost-wax casting process.
'It is a technique that can be traced back to the Romans. It involves creating a wax form that is then "invested", or encased, in a casting material consisting of fine plaster and powdered flint. The wax is then steamed out leaving an empty void – my finished mould. While the alchemy of the firing process can often fill me with a sense of surprise and joy at the finished product, occasionally the reverse can be the case. An air bubble in the wrong place or a tiny crack can ruin weeks of work.'
In this, his most recent work, Reekie has multiplied the number of figures and, at the same time, placed them in a new and challenging situation. 'A Captive Audience?' is the first work in a series which he is still evolving. In it he defines the restrictive world we live in. And he also celebrates the ever-present and, we hope, unquenchable human response.
Reekie is a social commentator, a Hogarth for the contemporary world. His subjects are the urban ones of space and personal identity. Human strife, greed and pettiness provide him with an unending stream of scenarios. Reekie is deeply affected by the contemporary human situation. For him, glass is the means to exploring our often fractured, troubled existence; the balancing act of survival. Individuals express their frustrations with tiny but heroic actions. In 'A Captive Audience?' the issue of cloning has provided him with a look-alike band of unquestioning drones. But one, at the back, has noticed something over the fence and may yet make a dash for freedom...
David Reekie trained at Stourbridge College of Art in the late 1960s under the influential glass artists Harry Seager and Keith Cummings.