If you’ve grabbed the 20th anniversary issue of Art Collector, you’ll already know that Victoria Reichelt has a new exhibition of works commemorating the quaint and passé opening next month. It’s hard to miss her, given she’s the covergirl.
Knot 2017 makes for an arresting cover, despite photorealism’s uncomfortable existence in the art world. Beloved by wider audiences, the genre often elicits groans and eye rolls from critics, who bemoan its tendency to favour form and technique over emotional connection and vibrancy. Writing it off as second generation pop, they lament its lack of audience engagement, the unlikelihood of its enduring significance and, the ultimate crime, boring subject matter. It’s a criticism not without merit, to be fair.
Reichelt, however, continues to flips the bird at the naysayers with each new body of work. Beyond the initial ‘wow’ factor, are themes and contemplations that warrant deeper analysis. Eschewing superficiality, Reichelt infuses her paintings with rueful nostalgia for objects and places now fading into obsolescence. Quirky and bold, they carry a question that belies their bright, happy colours: what is to become of our disposable society? Filing cabinets, bookshelves, Post It notes, paper documents…once integral to our daily existence, they now sit in a heap of discarded things, outmoded and ignored.
Previous works have drawn correlations between endangered animals and endangered sites such as libraries and archives, while her most recent suite contemplates objects made redundant by digitisation. Reichelt’s strength is in identifying our broken toys before we’ve even had a chance to notice we’re no longer playing with them.
Haunting all her works are the ghosts Reichelt doesn’t paint – the people whose careers and pastimes were lost along with the antiquated systems. Each work quietly acknowledges the people we feel affection for, yet never find the time to visit. Reichelt’s extraordinary detail only magnifies what’s missing. Use us or lose us, they quietly implore.
Now, with her new exhibition Precipice, Reichelt seems set to confront us even further with our own recklessness. Amongst her dejected subjects, we’re given a glimpse of the natural world that provided the base materials required for the objects we now reject. It’s a reminder that the Earth hasn’t forgotten the sacrifices it made for our rampant consumerism.
Precipice is a warning that, where human improvidence doesn’t ruin us completely, Mother Nature most likely will.