I've been meaning to interview talented Brisbane based artist Victoria Reichelt for such a long time. It seems fitting that we're finally getting around to it now (!!), as Victoria has had a particularly big year, having recently won the prestigious Sulman Prize for 2013. That is a seriously HUGE deal ! (Victoria's winning painting, 'After (books)' is pictured a little further down this post).
Victoria's paintings centre around subject matter tied to obsolescence - in the past her works have depicted antique film equipment, shelves filled with paperback books, and piles of glossy magazines. At present, she is concerned with documenting libraries. 'Even though modern day libraries are busier than ever, often the quietest areas are those where the books are, as people access more of their information online' explains Victoria below. Her latest works depict different libraries she has visited and photographed across Australia, with their endless racks of paper archives and books. Amidst the shelves wander lost animals, whose uneasy presence in these foreign environments points to the way we, too, might react to rooms full of books in years to come.
Painting primarily in oil on linen, Victoria recreates her subject matter in painstaking, almost photographic detail. There's often a sense of immense volume and repetition in her work - stacks of book and magazines sit impossibly high, and library shelves seem to go on as far as the eye can see. As she explains below, there is nothing left to chance in her creative process, her compositions are carefully planned and sketched before brush touches canvas - 'There isn’t a lot of room for experimentation in the painting process - that happens more in the planning stage' she says. The resulting paintings are meticulous in their attention to detail, and clearly convey Victoria's labour intensive process.
Victoria's latest exhibition is a joint show with sculptor Alex Seton, which opened just this week at Jan Murphy Gallery in Brisbane. The show includes works from her recent libraries series, and runs until November 16th.
I haven’t ever really done anything else. When I left school I went straight to uni to study Fine Art, and have been painting full-time ever since. I think that painting is a good language to use to discuss complex things that are going on in the world and how we feel about them – things that can’t always be put into words.
An example of this is in my big library interior paintings. Even though modern day libraries are busier than ever (with learning centers, computer facilities, databases, historical centers, exhibition spaces etc.), often the quietest areas are those where the books are, as people access more of their information online. Those works are about what we’re losing with the march forward of technology (moving from the physical to the digital), and I think you get that feeling of loss and uncertainty when you look at them.
Generally speaking in my practice I look at objects that are in danger of becoming obsolete or in different states of change (often due to new technologies), so each series has that idea as the overarching theme but then the work goes off onto other little tangents. In the past I have made paintings of antique cameras and film equipment, books and magazines and now I am focusing on libraries – all items and places that are undergoing lots of change due to advancing technologies.
The exhibition with Alex is about the idea of what we’re losing because of digital advancements. Alex is a sculptor from Sydney and he carves these amazing works out of marble. Even though our works are visually quite different we share the same conceptual concerns and communicate the ideas we’re interested in using very time intensive mediums. One of the works he has made for the show is a marble carving of a screwed up ball of paper, which is really beautiful and has some nice connections to my work, as I have made big paintings of rooms full of paper and boxes in library basements.
It’s all very pre-planned and organised. For this show I did photo shoots in a number of libraries around the country, and once I had all the images together I started to figure out which ones would work as individual paintings and also work well together as a show. Then I drew them up and started painting.
This show has probably taken about nine months to put together. There isn’t a lot of room for experimentation in the painting process – that happens more in the planning stage. The big paintings for this show took over a month to paint and the small ones took a couple of weeks each.
I generally only do one painting at a time, but sometimes you have to wait for things to dry, so occasionally there are a few on the go. Drying can be a bit of a problem, especially here in Queensland with the humidity. I had a deadline at the beginning of the year and I needed a whole bunch of works to dry a bit faster so I set up two heaters, a fan and a dehumidifier in my studio for a few days to speed things along – it was a bit of an unpleasant environment to paint in, but luckily everything dried in time!
I also sometimes have other projects I have to squeeze in, so occasionally I have to take time out to make works for other exhibitions. During the preparations for this show I took some time out to make work for the University of Queensland Artists’ Self Portrait Prize (I have made a couple of little paintings based on old photographs of myself as a child), so other projects that might pop up have to be factored in when trying to figure out how much time you need to make a show.
I paint Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, and if I have a show coming up, on the weekends too. When you work from home there is a temptation to take it easy but I learned long ago that you don’t get anywhere if you don’t fully commit and take it seriously as a job. I think also when you make work that is very time consuming you have to paint long hours to get work out there. If I slacked off it would take years to get a show together!
I listen to a tonne of podcasts and audiobooks to keep me from going stir crazy when I am painting all day. Slate magazine is the best, it is an online magazine that does great podcasts (the culture and political ones are the best). There are lots of others too – Longform (interviews with longform non-fiction writers), Extra Hot Great (about tv shows) and The New Yorker has some good podcasts too – and of course all the Radio National ones. I love audiobooks but they are more expensive so I only buy one every couple of weeks.
I am a bit of a magazine junkie too, there is nothing better than having a bunch of new issues on the kitchen table. I regularly read Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Marie Claire, Inside Out, Australian Art Collector, Artist Profile, Art & Australia, Art Monthly and some of the foodie ones too (Gourmet Traveller, Feast etc).
I am most inspired by my artist friends – there are so many great creatives here in Queensland doing amazing things, if I ever feel a bit low a quick studio visit or artist lunch normally gets me back on track.
Probably winning the Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in March this year. I was happy just to have work hung in that show, so to win it was amazing and I felt really lucky.
I am looking forward to this show opening so I can have a bit of a holiday! It always gets a bit frantic leading up to an exhibition, and it’s always good to have a few days off once it has opened to relax and start thinking properly about the next body of work.
I used to live in West End, I think that’s my favourite neighborhood. There is a great creative community there and some awesome restaurants.
Depo is a very cool new restaurant in West End, it has amazing décor and styling and great food. I also love The Spaghetti House in Boundary St, it is hard to get a booking sometimes, but great if you can get in.
Probably the James St precinct. It is close to the good galleries in the Valley so a great place to end up after some Saturday morning gallery hopping.
That’s a hard one, I tend to go where The Urban List tells me! The Urban List is a great website – they are always uncovering great new places to eat and visit so I just go where they recommend!