James Reka is a young contemporary Australian artist based in Berlin, Germany. His origins lie in the alleyways and train lines of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs where he spent over a decade refining his now-emblematic aesthetic. His character work has come to represent the beginnings of a new style of street art: clean, unique and not necessarily on the street (much to his mother’s joy). Surrealist, abstracted creatures emerge from the depths of Reka’s mind, communicating through strong lines, dynamic movement and bold colors. Theses figures haunt the laneways over three continents, clambering up brick walls and giving the urban environment a literal fresh coat of paint. Their personalities mirror those of their often-decrepit metropolitan context, opening a dialogue between the viewer and their surroundings.
With influences in pop culture, cartoons and illustration, Reka’s style has become known for its fusion of high and low art. This style emerged from his Pop-Art-influenced logo design background, featuring simple but striking lines and colour ways. Over time, the logos and symbols he created for clients evolved into more structured, animated forms and embraced variances of the different media he began experimenting with. These elements include murals, graphics, photography, and most recently, a move towards working with found objects, often sourced walking the train lines at night or exploring abandoned warehouses.
Through these origins, Reka has developed an incredibly diligent, almost obsessive attention to the technical proficiency of his work, and it has moved him towards producing ever-increasingly meticulously detailed pieces. His art sits somewhere between humorous and menacing, contrasting the two opposing feelings in a way that is unique to his vision. These pseudo-human forms are recognisable but isolating, playful yet eerie. This is Reka’s art: a paradox between sharp design and graffiti, held together with a fuse of passion and spray paint.
This year, Reka has had solo shows in Denmark and Melbourne, has exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Bristol and has participated in Stolen Space’s 7th Anniversary Group Show in London as well as pieces appearing in New York, Munich, Denver and Cologne exhibitions. On the streets, his characters adorn the walls of cities around the world from Japan to Milan and Paris to Brooklyn. Reka’s works have recently been acquisitioned by the National Gallery of Australia for their permanent collection, cementing his place as one of Australia’s most respected contemporary street artists.