Interview with Ree Treweek

We’ve got a real treat in store with this interview – we’ve had the pleasure of engaging the massively talented and ever so nice Ree Treweek. With a finely honed skill for bringing to life whole worlds of surreal characters in various media, her work spans a range of genres and, along with her creative collaborators, has generated a lot of attention both in her native South Africa as well as across the world. Come with us, as we get a glimpse into the world of one of South Africa’s most unique talents.   Interview with Ree Treweek   Hello Ree – and thanks for taking the time to give us some insights here on Springleap. For the benefit of our readers, please introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do.   I am co-founder of the concept/animation studio Shy The Sun and the fantasy collective The Blackheart Gang. I work in a variety of mediums ranging from animation to sculpture and illustration. Most of my personal work depicts an imaginary civilization born out of my collaboration with writer and musician Markus Wormstorm.   OK – so, onto your work. You’re a member The Blackheart Gang, who have been around since the early 2000’s – I remember the first time I came across the name was when you guys created the music video for ‘Ringo‘ by Markus, your Blackheart co-conspirator. Give us an idea of how things have progressed since then, and what highlights you’ve experienced along the way.   Whilst creating Ringo Markus and I started to attribute stories and histories to all the different characters I was designing for the video. We realized that his writing and my illustration style fused together beautifully. It was obvious that these characters needed a home and so The Household was born. The Household is a realm that lies below the crust of our earth and it powered by human bathwater. It was created by a little mouse named Eddie the Engineer. At the end of this month the Gangs new website will be up which will give everybody a far better understanding of The Household entails and all its inhabitants.   Post Ringo we decided to create a new piece of animation, this based upon one of the “histories” of The Household. This particular history was inspired by a doll that Markus had been given as a present, a second hand kiwi bird doll who was found at Milnerton market. I begin to draw countless characters inspired by this doll while Markus wrote a beautiful poem, and so it came to be that the Piranhas were born. This served as the basis for the animation that followed. After completing the animation we posted it online and the response we got from it was unbelievable. We began to travel to film festivals all over the world and won best short on a large number of them, including the Anncey Festival, which is the top animation festival in the world. Jannes and I then signed up to Passion Pictures as a directing Duo which was the start of Shy The Sun whilst and Markus and myself I’ve continued to develop The Household stories ever since.   Interview with Ree Treweek   After “The Tale of How” I began to imagine creating a fantasy natural history museum of sorts and it was this idea that lead to me beginning to create the sculptures. I absolutely love this side of the project, its a lot of fun and gives me an excuse to travel to interesting places. Aside from that Markus and I are currently working on a new book. In Markus’s words the story goes something like this…   “Far away in a rather insignificant corner of The Household is a world simply called “The Bog”. The Bog is rather a stinky place, quite humid, warm and sports one of the greatest and deadliest jungles ever imagined. It is here, in these jungles, that one will happen upon the Moles, a proud and ancient race. The Moles are the custodians of the jungle and the realm. It should have remained so, if not for the Bears. The Bears are an industrial bunch who began to settle in The Bog around a hundred years before our story begins. They initially did this to harvest the ocean of natural gas found below the jungle, but soon found something much more enticing – Honey. The bears could not get enough of the sweet jungle nectar, and as they grew increasingly wealthier they also grew increasingly fat, and they all did rather very well. Unfortunately for them, the Moles were also quite partial to Jungle Honey. In fact the Moles’ entire society is based on this Sticky Gold, and so it’s only logical that they should be quite impartial to the fact that the Bears were stealing their national resources and were chopping down their jungle. So in response the Moles began chopping up the Bears, who in turn fired at the Moles with pistols. These skirmishes quickly escalated into one of the bloodiest and drawn out wars in the history of The Bog.” Interview with Ree Treweek Your latest projects have been Postcards From Molotia, and The Tale Of How – both of which have generated quite the complimentary stir of praise and positive murmurs in all the right circles. What part do you play in the creation of the sculptures and characters – and are they as you envision them, or do they change as the ideas become physical objects?   My sculptures always begin as a simple line drawings. When I begin a drawing or a character I never really know what’s going to appear on the paper before me. They always rather surprise me as they come into existence. Sometimes, when looking back on old drawings I have no memory of creating them. Upon creating a number of line drawings in this manner I select my favorites and then flesh them out with all the added detail and textures. It’s usually only after a character appears on paper that I begin to attribute some personality or history to him. Markus then takes over and suddenly the characters come to life.   I then select the ideas that I’m most attached to and flesh them out with color and added detail. I then pass that design onto the artists that I collaborate with. The basic shape and design of the characters generally stay true to the initial drawings when translated into their sculptural form…I’m always amazed at how good the guys are at doing this, its an unbelievable talent.   I love working with people. Just as all my animation work is a result of collaboration so is my sculptural work. This process allows for surprises as well as using skills and techniques that I am unable to do on my own.  As a kid I always wanted to be an explorer and this allows me to be one of sorts, traveling to exotic places upon adventure quests of sorts. I imagine each project to be a voyage of discovery.   The sculptures from the Postcards From Molotia exhibition were created in collaboration with artists in Indonesia. I have since started working locally with an incredibly talented wood carver from Malawi called Friday Jibu. In November we will be working with a bakery in Mexico to create editable sculptures for an exhibition we’re having called “Tea, cakes and Torture” after which I’m hoping to source Alebrije artists collaborate with upon a new project. The great thing about our Household project is that the stories and characters can be translated into any medium, the possibilities are endless.   Interview with Ree Treweek   Tell us a little about the materials you use for the sculptures – are they simply carved directly from wood, or do you incorporate other items into their construction?   The sculptures from the Postcards of Molotia series are carved directly from wood, sealed and then painted with acrylic paint and varnished at the end. I have since started incorporating leather, stains and bronze into my sculptural work.   The attention you guys have gotten from Molotia, Relics From The Bog and now The Tale of How has been quite wide-ranging, and there definitely seems to be prospects for international shows. Are you guys taking the work on tour, as hinted at on your website in the mention of a mobile museum? Or are there single shows lined up?   As mentioned earlier my dream project is to create a fantasy museum of sorts. I hold back one in every three pieces that I created in order to steadily collect a body of work which will enable this to become a reality. Not only will the museum be a place in which the viewers can explore, read and observe a layered fantasy world but it’ll also be a showcase of traditional art and craft techniques.   We have exhibited our work in LA, Paris and Berlin and in November this year we will be exhibiting in Mexico. I absolutely love working upon the sculptures and am hoping in time to be traveling and exhibiting a lot more of them.   Interview with Ree Treweek     Any favourite projects you’d like to share with us?   My favourite commercial project to date was designing characters for the Psychedelic scene of The Beatles Rockband trailer. You can view it here.   Well there it is folks, a fantastic look into how the mind of a truly talented creative works! If you enjoyed this, check out our other interviews here on the blog – there are dozens, from leading illustrators, graphic designers and artists from across the world.   p.s: check out the newly-revamped Blackheart Gang’s freshly revamped website – it’s a thing of beauty!    

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