Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Metro Arts - Denise Reichenbach

'Challengers of the Unknown'

Born in 1980 in Wolfsbehringen, a small rural village in then still communist East Germany, artist Denise Reichenbach arrived in Australia in 2008.  After travelling the country for two years Reichenbach chose to settle.  The following five years she spent in Gladstone, Queensland, a formal requirement necessary to obtain her visa.  This period proved an exile of sorts and laid the ground for gestating new developments in her work.

Reichenbach speaks of her feelings then, of entrapment with regards to her painting.  Eventually crystallization occurred when her drive to create grew and her resolve strengthened.  In this exhibition we observe an emerging artist overthrowing the restrictions of the tradition of painting.  Reichenbach's contrasting histories inform her work.  The way in which she negotiates time and space is reminiscent of contemporary German painter Rauch.  Also Gaugin, particularly when he spent time in Martinique his paintings changed, as the light in Australia has changed everything for this artist.  Collage, comic books, drawing and mixed media convey graphic qualities in her new work; raw primitivism and the drive for looseness deliver semi figuration via abstract means.  The formal practice of painting comes with many rules in terms of doing things in specific ways.  There is immediacy which alternative materials and methods afford the artist to assist in breaking up the picture plane.  Reichenbach has consciously embarked on her journey utilizing techniques associated with working on paper as devises to renegotiate her original discipline of painting.  She takes an organic approach allowing the work to begin to make itself; the work and the process have become one.  Juxtaposing comic book references with remnants of the classical figure she refers to the 'layers of layers' and what can happen when the unknown is challenged.

'Challengers of the Unknown' is Reichenbach's considered attempt to extract her work from the German painting tradition.  She acknowledges this profound influence, 'If I look at what the Germans did there was always a presence of a higher force, without sounding cheesy.  It's like they tapped into that, they talked about 'the nature' of something'.  Reichenbach engages stream of consciousness as a means to undertake her work, she is not interested in what's fashionable right now in art circles, she is more interested in her own possible perceptions.  It is this process which has led her to rediscover her own connection to nature; her own spirituality in a contemporary context.

After a residency at Bigci situated just outside of Sydney in the Blue Mountains in March this year Reichenbach became immersed in nature.  In the Australian bush she made the connection between formal constructs and a personal journey.  One of the defining aspects of the female artist is the struggle with the public and private.  Reichenbach is looking at human relationships, sexuality, and ambivalence by focusing on the figure, the power of the body and how we relate to one another.  Energy sensations and auric vision have come into play where she uses the figure as a narrative devise to convey otherworldly experiences.  Here, within all the figurative work, there is a relationship to the higher being or guide and the notion that every character in the dream is a facet of the self.

The strangeness of new places can often generate an overwhelming sense of self, as Reichenbach in her own words stipulates ‘When the father leaves the room, the child steps up’.

Meaghan Shelton
Guest Reviewer

19th November - 21st November 2015

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