Dialogue 33 | Pete Rey


Rey’s creative journey began at a young age, initially signed to BritArt at the age of 21, selling abstract fine art photography prints. Rey then applied his creative talents to create an international production company, completing a large number of worldwide commissions, from which a love of travel and the world’s beauty in photography was born.Returning to the art scene with a wealth of production skills and digital imaging expertise, Rey brings with him a fresh look of abstract artistry to the fine art world. He has always been fascinated by the science behind the known world, studying HumanSciences at University College London in his early twenties and also enjoying a talented grasp of technology. Applying his love of science, technology and creativity to the artistic process, he has developed a unique expression of art from a photographic starting point.Using source images from NASA as inspiration for each piece in his latest collection, ‘Atmosphere’, the body of work is a celebration of the life’s work of Gordon Miller Bourne Dobson CBE FRS, the great grandfather of the artist. Dobson’s work on the atmosphere was instrumental in the discovery of the hole in the Ozone layer and propelled a much greater understanding of the entity as a whole, for which he was awarded a Knighthood from the Queen and a Fellowship from Merton College, Oxford.It is perhaps no accident that his great grandfather’s most famous work and discoveries were founded upon the application of unique photographic processes.

Inspired by meditational practice where one can often see auras and movements of light, Rey takes inspirational original source images and transforms these into entirely new works through digital painting techniques, producing breathtaking pieces of large format art. Throughout his work, Rey takes us on a journey, to blur the lines between known dimensions, creating unique artworks to represent the transcendence of energy flows into what is termed the ‘Quantum’ and beyond.

Working as a digital artist but delivering his work as vast immersive prints, Rey breaks down the traditional separation between the digital and physical artist. It is a process he has termed ‘Photo transcendence’, which creates strokes much like those of a painter’s brush, whilst preserving the original colour palette. Upscaling their size to mesmerising wall sized prints and working in a true 16 bit colour palette (65,536 tones) to produce stunning image gradations, Rey gives us an entirely new and original style of art creation, bringing with it new perspectives to the world around us in a series of limited edition prints.

Hi Pete! Could you tell us how and when your relationship with art started?

‘Mountain Landscape’ (1888) – James Henry Crossland (1852-1939)
Growing up in our family home I was surrounded by an array of large-scale paintings from an early age.  One prominent artist on display was a relative, James Henry Crossland (1852 -1939) who was a master of capturing light and its movement within his paintings, specialising in landscape scenes  from the Lake District. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, and some of his works are now  held in the National Collection and The Lakeland Art Trust. I remember gazing into his paintings transfixed with each scene and being totally drawn in an immersive way. 

My mother and brother have always been talented painters, but paint was never a medium I connected with creatively, albeit I loved its form which planted a seed for when I could express my love of art when I could find the medium to do so.

My mother and brother have always been talented painters but paint was never a medium I connected with creatively, albeit loved its form which planted a seed for when I could express my love of art, when I could find the medium to do so.

Pete Rey

Your work also explores many colours. How do you define and use it in your art?

Studying psychology and the process of memory in my degree, I was always fascinated by how we remember things. Sound and smell are components but image is the strongest element. Developing my production skills in the world of cinema over the years I learned the incredible impact colour can have on how we connect with scenes and images, creating an internal emotional response and thus remembering them. My aim as an artist is to create an emotional impact with the viewer, forming a memory of the experience, thus colour is a very important part of the creative process. Carefully selecting source images with desired colour palettes, the images are then transformed into alternative forms but still recognisable from the palette preserved.

Observing your artwork from your last collection PARADISO we can see that most of your inspiration comes from beautiful landscapes. Do you also photograph before starting to work digitally on the images?

The last collection ‘Paradiso’, was a unique collaboration with aerial photographer Merr Watson based in Australia taking images from an array of paradisiacal settings with stunning magnetic ocean blues, swept beach colours and luscious green tropical colours, captured in several locations in the southern hemisphere. These gave key ingredients to create artwork which would connect with its viewers to transport and connect them to the abstract interpretation of the paradisiacal scenes presented. The first collection ‘Dimensions’ was created from self acquired images over 10 years, in an explorative journey into the art world. The process gave me a unique insight into how images can be transformed into unique pieces of art, creating wall sized high quality prints in an entirely new form yet recognisable from the maintained colour palette. The journey also presented exciting possibilities for client commissions to use images of sentimental value, making personalised art forms for them with limitless possibilities. A hidden ‘story behind the painting’ that connects with the client in a very personal way. One such creation was ‘Lustrous’ produced from a waterfront skyline picture of Hong Kong, taken on a destination client commission shoot.

Do you have an artist who has inspired your own art practice or any artwork in particular that has influenced you?

One of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century for large scale artwork, Mark Rothko, said this in May 1951:“I paint very large pictures. I realise that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them however, – I think it applies to other painters I know -, is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command.” I will never forget the time I experienced Rothko’s work at the Tate Modern, their scale and presentation really did take you in like nothing else I had ever experienced before. Rothko’s reflection tells us something important about viewer immersion. Large scale artwork allows the viewer to engage with the pieces in a way that smaller forms simply cannot achieve. It relates to our emotional experience with artwork and spaces. When each takes a certain scale it creates a feeling of awe and wonder allowing us, if only for a moment, to disappear into it. We’ve all felt that emotion when walking into a space of grandeur.Looking around in these grand places, be they homes or monuments of humankind, we feel something powerful in the experience of engaging with them. Large artwork creates exactly the same reaction. Van Gogh has also been a big inspiration to me and I was lucky enough to have a private tour around the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, narrated by his Willem van Gogh, whose great-grandfather was the artist's brother. Having worked with the moving image in film production for many years I have always been inspired by how Van Gogh manage to create such an incredible feeling of movement in his paintings and with it a deep emotional connection with its viewers. How the static somehow becomes fluid and with it a deeper resonance of the scene the artist is conveying. Movement certainly triggers emotion in the brain and Van Gogh’s work has deeply inspired me to explore this in each of my creations.

Could you share with us a bit about your techniques and how you have been improving it through time?

The first stage of the creative process is to choose an image of a desirable colour palette. The presence of light in any given scene adds some beautiful depth to the tonality of the final artwork piece so I always look to work with that. The next stage is to isolate the image from the background, which is chosen as black to represent the ‘void’ or ‘Quantum’ as it is termed of nothingness, through which it is thought that energy flows between dimensions through the teachings of meditation. The next application is create a sense of movement to represent this energy flow, which is created by various digital painting techniques likened to blowing wind through the image. The intricacy of the process creates strokes within the artwork to the smallest visible detail, much like that of a painters brush. The entire process is completed on a digital canvas of absolute vast scale, up to3mx1.5m across for the largest landscape image, which allows the artwork to be printed in huge immersive proportions.Working on the production of my third collection of work, ‘Atmosphere’, and 24+ pieces later there is no doubt that I have learnt a lot and improving the process at every stage purely through a technical viewpoint. From a creative perspective, each collection produced so far has immensely propelled my desire to produce more emotive and engaging artwork, pushing me to explore new techniques and processes to take my artwork to new heights. Having learnt photography on the medium of film, I remember fondly the excitement of collecting your prints in somewhat unknown anticipation and liken my transformation process of a photographic image to artwork to this, which keeps the creative process enticing and exciting. Its an amazing moment to sit in front of an image as a blank canvas and envisage what kind of unique artwork I can make it into. It often gives me goosebumps, especially when the rendering starts and I get a small preview of what it could be like, whilst the final form is some what unknown. This feeling surely maintains my passion for my path as an artist and drives my work onwards.

Which reaction or feeling do you want to provoke on the viewer? Can you share with us some reactions that pleased you and pushed you to keep working?

Reflecting on my inspirations and experiences of art, there is no greater feeling that I want to create in the viewer of complete immersion. From the first sight of it in the room, being drawn to it, then losing themselves in it if only just for a moment. To forget everything around them and be present, at just that time, to engage in it totally. This is how art touches us people. It creates a journey in their mind to leave everything behind and dream for a little, without distraction. The practise of meditation teaches you the value of being ‘in the present moment’ and how it allows you to connect with life in greater ways to propel happiness. The art of this is taught by helping you to disconnect entirely from the racing thoughts of life in meditational sessions, something that I try to create as a stage for to engage with in each piece of my artwork.

Could you describe your work in one word?


Anything planned for your future? New mediums, art residencies, webinars that you would like to share with us?

The current body of work in development, entitled ‘Atmosphere’, is a tribute to the life’s work of my great grandfather who was a scientist instrumental in the discovery of the ozone layer. Through photographic processes he was able to attain measurements of the density of Ozone in the atmosphere, creating The Dobson Unit, which is still used by NASA to this day. An array of his measurement equipment devices were produced and distributed to the far parts of the world where atmosphere studies were most critical, including the Arctic, Antartica, K2 and Everest, allowing the scientific community to progress significantly in their understanding of the atmosphere as a whole and the damage mankind was doing to it. Using images acquired by NASA from both aerial and surface standpoints, ‘Atmosphere’ is an artistic exploration of the many spheres between the earth’s surface and the void of space. The body of work transmits a mixture of serene and powerful movements, combined with a stunning iridescence of colours found across the expanse above us. On completion, a planned exhibition is hoped to schedule at the Science Museum in Kensington, London where Gordon Miller Bourne Dobson’s equipment is still kept in safe storage until this day.

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