Before visiting Brisbane-based artist Bruce Reynolds I’d heard he made a good coffee. His quirky but well-appointed studio is nestled between two automotive repair specialists in a semi-industrial strip of Woolloongabba close to Norman Creek reserve — not far from Brisbane city.

I’m welcomed at the roller door by Bruce and once inside it immediately feels like an artist’s studio alive with a range of materials and equipment including a bench with a band saw and shelves filled with models, marquettes and other forms, nearly all white.

Neatly hanging on the wall to the right is a series of ‘paintings’ that combine complex collaged linoleum sections for which he’s renowned. For many years Reynolds used discarded flooring materials, primarily linoleum from old Queenslanders, ‘building paintings’ as he’s described them, turning the process into a very successful career and attracting the moniker ‘Linoman’.

Tucked back in the kitchen area there’s a flash espresso machine and once we sit down, true to form, I’m served a very fine short black.

On the way in I’d noticed some larger than human-size blocks of polystyrene. During the flood early this year I’d seen blocks like these, the result of damaged and dislodged pontoons, floating down the Brisbane River eventually landing on the banks including around New Farm. As it turns out this is where these blocks have come from.

When we talk about his recent work he shows me a mould formed from polystyrene, and mentions working negatively where he shapes and carves into the mould before making a positive cast — with plaster and other gypsum-based materials or glassfibre reinforced concrete. ‘For me’, he says,’ taking out the self-consciousness of painting and drawing by working in the negative is really important’. ‘It’s also got something to do with the pleasure of printmaking’, he adds. By this he’s referencing the process of intaglio, where a line is incised into a metal plate and a positive impression made, the opposite of relief printing.

The negative process he enthusiastically speaks of primarily forms the basis of Reynolds’s current exhibition — of elegantly crafted and presented vessels and wall-relief sculptures — at Artisan gallery in Bowen Hills.

When asked how this work came about, he spoke at length about his experience in 2013 as an artist in residence at the British School in Rome. As a starting point ‘I took a [electric] chainsaw to Rome and determined to make work cast in plaster from carved responses to the city’, a city steeped in history, art and evocative sculpture. ‘You arrive with a material and a sense of process and the rest comes in; you don’t need to have a chart of concepts . . . I want to be surprised and I want some kind of flow by working with blankness. I’m inviting the baggage to come in through the back door rather than a conscious front door, concept-driven manner. The work is fundamentally about the interface between materials and processes and how you deal with those two things on the run or in the studio.’

Based in Brisbane since 1984, Reynolds’s career spans more than four decades in Australia and abroad. As a long-established artist and educator, he’s exhibited in Australia and internationally and contrib­uted extensively to Brisbane’s public art landscape — and he’s just been awarded the 2022 Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize.

Well aware of his art before I came to Brisbane 20 years ago, I wondered what works of his were held in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art and was shocked to see there were only four works, all from decades ago: two from 1988, one from 1992 and one from 1995-96. This seems inadequate to say the least.

[Note: I did not seek comments from Reynolds about this.]

Bruce Reynolds: Speculative Archeology’ is on show at Artisan gallery from 5 November 2022 to 4 March 2023.

Cover Image – Bruce Reynolds in his Woolloongabba studio, 11 November 2022. Photo: Ian Were


#1 – The Second Time Machine 2022; high performance glass reinforced concrete.

#2 – Bruce Reynolds: Speculative Archeology’, Artisan gallery, Nov 2022.

#3 – Language Vessel #2 2022; Hydrocal, pigment.

#4 – Bruce Reynolds: Speculative Archeology’, Artisan gallery, Nov 2022.