Joel Rea with his painting The Promised Land

Joel Rea with his painting The Promised Land


Queensland College of Art graduate Joel Rea is taking a bite of the Big Apple, opening his first international solo exhibition at the prestigious Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York.

The painter — whose photo realistic depictions of the natural world have already brought him huge success in Australia — was offered the opportunity after curator Jonathan Levine discovered Rea’s paintings online.

While Rea has exhibited internationally before as part of a group show, the opening of the solo Beasts of Arcadia marks a new chapter in the artist’s stellar career.

“For me, this solo exhibition was a goal I had from very early on in my career and is the culmination of ten years working full time as an artist,” Rea says.

The Jonathan LeVine Gallery is famous for launching the careers of artists such as American “pop surrealist” Mark Ryden, who designed the cover art for Michael Jackson’s 1991 album, Dangerous.

And it looks as though Beasts of Arcadia could bring Rea immense international success as well.

“The show has been very well received, with a crowded opening night and a steady stream of eager viewers through the gallery each day,” he says.

Rea’s success is well deserved. He paints with a fine haired brush and can spend as long as 650 hours on a single work, causing French Berlin-based magazine Berlin Poche to compare his paintings to those of the great Renaissance masters.

Rea says he owes his start as an artist to the Queensland College of Art, describing his experience at Griffith University as “challenging, experimental and personally redeeming”.

“Studying at QCA placed me with mentors, such as artist and gallery owner Brett Lethridge, which helped to guide me directly onto the path I am on today.”

After working at the Lethbridge Gallery for a year, Rea started selling paintings and sold his first full-scale work to a private collector for $30,000 at age 24.

A few years later and Rea’s photo surrealist paintings in Beasts of Arcadia are in high demand.

“The paintings sold out completely before the doors even opened. I feel great about it all, it couldn’t have gone better.”

Beasts of Arcadia: New Paintings by Joel Rea is showing at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Gallery 11, 529 West 20th Street, New York until October 10th.

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