Alluring and with a sense of disquiet, the works of Victoria Reichelt compel us to face personal and universal truths.
The artist documents endangered artefacts and transitional spaces, both technological and temporal. Her upcoming survey ‘Archive’ comprises 20 paintings meticulously selected from public and private collections, which convey the outmoded tools we use to experience the world while also revealing the cyclical nature of things, stirring the feeling that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Reichelt is based on the Gold Coast and has been practicing art for more than 15 years. She has been a finalist and award winner in a litany of Australia’s most prestigious painting prizes, she has exhibited Australia wide, and her work is held in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Deakin University, Artbank, Tweed Regional Gallery and Gold Coast City Gallery.
How involved were you in the selection of the works in ‘Archive’, and what narrative do they tell as a whole?
Throughout my career, I have always had this core feeling that my work is about things that are in danger of becoming obsolete or are in different states of change. Each body of work has branched off into little investigations. When you see it as a whole, you’re looking at an archive of objects that we may not see in 100 years, lots of ideas under one giant umbrella. I wanted different kinds of works that show the breadth of my investigation.
Looking back, how has your practice evolved from the oldest painting on view to the most contemporary?
Actually it’s funny I was just talking to someone yesterday about how when I had kids I split my garage down the middle, on one side is a very serious studio area and on the other a very colourful play area. I’ve noticed since then my work has had much more colour, there’s more colour in my life. It’s seeped into the work. You can see that in my latest work Interior (2020) with its busy saturated colour (a finalist work in the 2020 Portia Geach Memorial Award). It’s a culmination of all that – more colour, metaphorically and physically in your life with children.
That makes sense, you may see the world differently in positive and negatives ways and I think overall be present.
The show I did at Jan Murphy Gallery with the balloons was born of having these things around from parties. The upside is the colour but there’s also a lot of waste involved, cheap plastic stuff. It’s all wrapped up in that idea of cool things that seduce you but are terrible for the environment.
I gravitated towards the Australian Landscape Smiley pieces; they are at once a depiction of our collective deflated mood, social responsibility, printed matter shifting to screens, our use of the emoji and losing the skill of writing and speaking with emotion.
Yes! Such shorthand for emotions, that’s really true.
What’s your read on your observations of loss, are you mourning, being critical of changes, or noting the transition of civilisation?
It’s more noting them and painting them in an archival way to preserve them. When I was at university I made these paintings of old stereos and calculators – now 20 years later that is an archival thing, these old versions of technology don’t really exist. I don’t think of it in a critical way, I love libraries and I don’t want them to go away, and I don’t think they will. Things like libraries will always be with us but serve different purposes now; they’re changing. My work is a way to record what we’re losing, mourn for it. When you look at After (books) (2013), the deer in the library, it’s a mournful thing that’s disappearing and it sums up the feeling really well.
The words ‘archive’ and ‘documentary’ are used in reference to your practice and by you which can imply an empirical lens. However I get a very personal energy, diary-like even – can you talk about this dichotomy?
Absolutely. I think when you look at the deer, these mournful animals in a solitary space it does bring a lot of emotion to them. I do feel emotional about libraries; I still go to them. You notice the quieter areas are where the books are, and the hive of activity is where everyone is on their laptop. I think that’s sad, but they’re having to change and adapt – as we all are.
There’s something about the pace of change at the moment and the contrast with the pace of change of making a painting. These paintings take months, or a year to make a show. There’s so much fast change, so maybe it’s me trying to subconsciously slow everything down and spend a lot of time on something, which not a lot of people do anymore. It’s a way of me trying to slow down the world a bit.
Was that the catalyst for your interest in libraries and archives?
I think so. I painted one book and really liked the aesthetic, and kept painting more and more and more. It started off as one book and then moved to giant paintings of the inside of libraries. I like the look of many of one thing, and then it worked itself into ideas I was having about redundancy and change.
Do you see a parallel with the still life genre and its comment on mortality and the way you approach your subjects?
Yes it is and it harks back to me to my Doctorate in Visual Arts, I wrote my paper on Gerhard Richter. I was researching how still life used to work before the invention of photography it was the only way to record things, that’s how we know about the world; it’s largely because of painting. For me, it started off as using an ‘old school’ technique to record things, and that is still what I’m doing today but what I look at changes in a documentary style.
The medium of painting itself is a very important archival tool, and then you’ve got the multiplicity of subjects and investigations…
That was the irony; the first objects I painted were old cameras. I liked the irony of painting these things that were meant to be the death of painting, but in fact it gave painting a whole new light. It was a crazy thought that someone would be painting these things as interesting and relevant that were meant to be the end of painting. I am quite reliant on a camera to make my work; they’re all painted from the camera. But, I am also reliant on oil paint. I take photographs, but they’re never particularly good, so I chop and change things – I fix it in paint.
Reichelt will join Tweed Regional Gallery Director, Susi Muddiman for an artist talk on 11 December 2020. The artist is represented by Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane, and THIS IS NO FANTASY, Melbourne.
Tweed Regional Gallery
4 December, 2020 to 9 May, 2021
New South Wales