Originators by MATTE
REO is a dynamic futurist poised to change the way the world views digital art.
His sophisticated, sensual style incorporates repetition to draw viewers in.
From the onset of his creative journey, REO has maintained focus on both music and art simultaneously, and often informing each other.
Now a Grammy-nominated producer with placements on platinum albums, REO achieved his first major music placement with Beyonce and went on to produce for many other artists including Lil Wayne, Bruno Mars, and Chris Brown.
His visual arts career includes doing branding work for commercial high-end brands like Nike, Dior, Calvin Klein, Adidas, Tom Ford, Macy’s and more. REO has been designing visuals for major artists such as Beyonce, Kanye, Jay-Z, Travis Scott, and Post Malone.
Like many artists, the pandemic created a great deal of challenge and uncertainty however, so he began to focus his visual art on creating NFTs. His visual work was featured alongside world-renowned artists at the Scope Art Show during Art Basel 2021. One of his project is a self-produced album entitled “free music” and his latest visual works are currently for sale on Sotheby’s.
MATTE: Tell us about your current NFT projects
REO: I make a lot of different types of work, but I think “Ugly” and “Guided Medication” have been my most popular pieces that I’ve made in the NFT world. The most interesting thing to me is that they’re pretty opposite of each other.
MATTE: Tell us about your “Ugly” series…
REO: In early 2021, I started an everyday process where I was making one piece of art every day. I was having fun. I was making something, learning new processes. Then I got to the point where at the end of January, almost like 30 days in, I started to feel a kind of pressure that I hadn’t really felt as clearly as I did, which is that when I sit down to make something, I have this pressure that I put on myself to make something beautiful.
I think that a lot of artists feel this and some people end up getting crushed by that too. I know I was starting to really feel it because I was just having less and less time to work on something. So I was like, I have to make something beautiful in an hour, how am I going to do that?
So something clicked on my head and I said, what if I sit down and try to make something ugly on purpose? What if I free myself from this confining definition of what I have to create? And I made my very first “Ugly” at the very end of January and I posted it explaining my process. The feedback was absolutely insane. A lot of people messaged me and said that they felt that same pressure too, and that I inspired them to try to approach their work that way.
Because the crazy thing is, even though the piece itself was in quotations “ugly”, it still had beautiful things about it. The material, the lighting, the color grade of it. So it started to kind of be in that in between space. From that point on, I just kept making things as I sat down with that mindset, I’m going to try to make something ugly. And as I did that, it kept getting harder and harder for me to make something ugly on purpose as I wanted to mess around with, again, color palettes, textures and other things. Your brain is looking at this figured form, recognizing the beautiful things about it. And I like this. As kids that are scared of the dark or scared of scary movies, but there’s something about embracing that and like walking into the closet, and just see that there is nothing in there. That’s kind of that exploration for me too while making these pieces too.
This was the real start of the Ugly series.
MATTE: Tell us more about “Guided Medication”…
REO: Regarding the Guided Medication. I like to make things that I need. A lot of times when my brain is going into many ideas running around music, fashion, art, I notice that I need to step away and I need to calm down. Sometimes the best way for me to step away is to make art. Art that is calm, so I started this Guided Meditation series as sort of breathing instructions, by following the white light and reminding myself to breathe.
I made that for me and when I put it out in the world, so other people can get that same medication. Now it’s not just mine anymore. It helps me, but sharing it it’s the real beauty of art.
I even made the first Guided Medication into an infinite object and people are buying it and putting it in their homes and they told me that just by seeing it with the corner of their eye and not even following the breathing instructions, but just by seeing that, it reminds them to breathe. For me, that’s enough.
Just the fact that it’s there, there’s no words, there’s nothing that says you need to do this or that, it’s meant to be very intuitive and it’s already helped a lot of people from what I’ve heard. And that’s the whole point of it for me.
MATTE: We love the juxtaposition between all of your works… contrasting intentions, music and art… what is your process to create it all?
REO: I find that as an artist, that’s kind of what I’m going in between. My brain gets burnt out and I begin to overthink everything, every little decision, every color, every sound and then trying to go and disappear from all that and kind of reset my brain, reset my eyes and my ears. Collect myself, and re-approach some of those problems and then maybe some things that I didn’t see before or hear before it would be revealed to me. And usually that’s kind of what happens. That’s kind of my process. When I get stuck on art, I start making music.
When I get stuck on music, I look back at the art and I know what to change. And then sometimes when I’m kind of burnt out on both, I go and do some yoga or meditate or just go out in nature or even play a video game or something, just do something the opposite and kind of try to find some time away to kind of reset.
MATTE: Where can our community collect your art?
REO: People can find my “Ugly series” on Open sea, and then the “Guided Medication” is now on SuperRare.
MATTE: Tell us your thoughts about the current movement in digital art and Web3…
REO: It’s a great privilege to create abundance from digital art… for so long it was like the most that we could do was get hired by other brands or companies. If you were a painter or sculptor or something like that, it’s still a long road for you to be able to make money off your heart. But nowadays, with just this slight change in technology and blockchain allowing people to own digital content, it takes something that I’ve been doing for a long time and makes it possible for me to find my own collectors and connect with people that see value in what I do. It’s just such a beautiful time. To be able to share all the things that I love to do from visuals to music, it’s really special and I do not take it for granted. I’m looking forward to having an amazing time and meeting more people and just sharing the things that I love.
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Video and images are courtesy of the artist and MATTE Projects
Interview by Francesca Valente – Head of Talent