Interview with Reen Barrera for ‘Emotional Meat’ | Exhibition July 8 – July 29, 2023

Thinkspace is excited to present Reen BarreraEmotional Meat‘ where he explores the contemporary generation’s frantic demand for struggles and hustles. As many are fixated on succeeding, motivated by individualistic rationalities, often a disregard for the important aspect of one’s existence comes to light. With an array of new works on canvas alongside a new collection of his signature hand made sculptures, Barrera has created a show that is light and playful, while brimming with profound meaning and deep emotion.

Our interview with Reen shares his favorite dolls, growing up with grandma in Manila, about his favorite collectables and more!

What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring? 

I have a realization upon creating the theme/title “Emotional Meat” that without emotion we are just a bunch of meat trying to eat each other, and it’s just fascinating that us humans having this skill called emotion helps us gauge life in a more interesting way.

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

In my career as an artist, I was first a sculptor, and it requires studies and planning before creating one. What’s challenging for me is painting, it’s like every canvas is a page on a diary, more like a subconscious confession. And at the end of every piece I learn something about my self and my surroundings.

Have you ever deep-dived and researched dolls from other cultures? If so, do you have a favorite type of doll?

I haven’t really delved into cultural dolls, thanks for reminding me, I will do research on that. About choosing what’s my favorite, it’s the Japanese dolls, one thing it’s always on display at our local surplus stores, and my aunt’s house who use to work in japan own a lot of these dolls, Like my dolls they posses a simple facial expression, but carry a lot of meaning.

What part of the Philippines did you grow up in? What was your community and surrounding area like? How does it differ from where you live and work today? 

I grew up in Manila, raised by my grandma. As a homebody, my only playground is inside our small apartment filled with hoarded items by my grandma thus making me enjoy using cloth, wood etc. as a medium. Now I hoard things too in my present studio, my grandma must be proud. 

Do you have any rituals or practices that help you overcome internal struggles or navigate excessive outside stressors? 

Just the process of doing it right away without any need to be inspired has always worked for me, and also a good night sleep makes my head clear.

When you quit your day job and decided to work on your art full-time, what was the decision-making process like leading up to that moment? How did you prepare for that shift? 

I ask my father first for advice/help that I would like to try art as a full time career for a year, and if ever I need financial help he promised to support me. I thank the gods of arts that I survived that year without bothering my father. I was lucky because I met the right people, and will be forever grateful to them.

Have you treated yourself to a Lego set yet? What are your favorite art collector toys? 

I don’t have a lego set yet, but I got addicted to dragon balls and Ultraman figures. 

Watching films is one way you recharge your creative batteries. Can you recommend three movies that should be on our to-be-watched list? 

Any good Marvel/DC movies I rewatch if I need to recharge, then while working, King of the Hill or Southpark is on repeat, helps me keep the stress level low.

You’ve shared that the bravery of the ideas of Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Choe, and Cecile Perra has helped you move beyond your comfort – can you elaborate on the philosophical principles of these artists that have moved you?

One thing that they have in common is having a strong personality and they are honest with their work in my opinion, knowing their stories and what they stand for is enough for the young me to  be moved and be fired up to tell my story through art.

Exhibition on view July 8 – July 29, 2023 at:
Thinkspace Projects
4217 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90016