Stephanie Reisch: abstract alchemy
Belgian born, Perth based artist Stephanie Reisch talks about her sublime painting practice which draws on prehistory and mystical insights to evoke deep, perhaps unconscious responses in the viewer. Stephanie's paintings, with their indistinct forms draw the viewer in to their mysterious layers of fluid painterly marks and brushwork. Captivating as images on a screen, the paintings have an utterly luminous quality when viewed, as they must be, in the flesh.
Michelle Saleeba: Why art as a career?
Stephanie Reisch: Since I was a child I’ve always felt compelled to explore outlets for my creativity on a daily basis and I am fortunate to have family and friends who continue to be supportive of my idiosyncrasies. I don’t recall there ever being a starting point so to speak, but more of a decision to pursue a creative practice in a committed way. I think I made this call shortly after completing my undergrad degree in visual arts.
MS: Have there been any formative experiences, or lessons along the way that have impacted on your art making?
SR: For a long time I wanted to do, and experience, everything. Eventually someone pointed out that unless I wanted to become a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ I would have to choose. I ended up choosing visual arts as my career path, and my other interests, which include architecture and music, I’ve been able to integrate along the way.
MS: Describe your current art practice. What is the inspiration behind your current body of work?
SR: Prehistory. Primal Landscapes. The unseen and the unknown. Natural phenomena. My work is deeply entrenched in the mysteries and power of the natural world, both past and present.
MS: Tell us about your choice of medium/s, why do you work with them?
SR: I predominantly work with oils on canvas and in recent years have developed a fascination for working with natural pigments, as well as obscure grounds and substrates. Overall I love the complexity and durational properties of oil paint. Occasionally I will deviate and explore ideas through sound and photography.
MS: What does a typical day of creative work look like for you?
SR: I tend to get into the studio around midday and work until the late afternoon…I then go home for a bit and head back in around 10pm. If I am working towards an exhibition or deadline I will often stay up all night. I prefer to work during the evening, as the world is asleep and quiet. This year I have taken on more teaching hours so when I am not in the studio I am running workshops in painting and mixed media drawing.
MS: Who or what are the strongest influences on your art?
SR: The natural world and its mysteries are endlessly fascinating but in terms of artistic influences it would have to be the early image-makers of the Upper Palaeolithic period. I am also really interested in the rock art from the Burrup Peninsula and keenly following the work of Lotti Consalvo and Justine Varga. Back in high school I was really into Ian Fairweather, Tony Tuckson and Rothko. I’m sure some of their work rubbed off on me.
MS: What do you aim to say through your art?
SR: My work strives to connect with the viewer beyond the visual and transport them to a place where mind, memory, space and substance converge. I’m trying to immerse the viewer in forms that meld physical landscapes with intangible mindscapes; paintings that are as experiential as they are material and ephemeral as they are corporeal. All my paintings herald ancient forces in one way or another.
MS: What’s essential to you being able to produce art?
SR: Floor space, good lighting, a couch to procrastinate on, and silence. I also need to work with quality paints such as Charvin, Gamblin or Sennelier, plus my Escoda and Omega brushes.
MS: What role do you see artist’s having in society?
SR: I think artists hold a lot more responsibility than what society gives them credit for. Artists are multidimensional beings; we have a greater sense of awareness (I think) that comes from heightened observational skills, therefore process much of the world in deeper and more meaningful ways…artists enable society to see and experience the world through different lenses. I love all the highs and lows of being an artist. Unlike other professions it’s a raw and humbling experience that demands authenticity.
MS: Do you have any exciting news to share about your art practice?
SR: I am currently working on a new body of work for a solo show in September with Linton & Kay, a couple of private commissions and developing ideas from a residency at Curtin University late last year. I’ve also recently signed to JahRoc Galleries in the South West and am looking forward to working with them this year.
MS: What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your artwork?
SR: I recall this girl at a group show at King Street Studio who kept hovering about this large painting of mine. She told me she felt compelled to stay close to the work but couldn’t explain why. By the end of the evening she had decided to buy it. That particular work had some polar bear hairs embedded in the paint somewhere. I really liked the fact that she was drawn to its presence rather than the image.
MS: I’m wondering if there is a quote, piece of writing or music that particularly inspires you?
SR: Carlos Castaneda was very influential in my formative art years and got me thinking about alternate perception, which consequently set me on the path towards exploring human and animal relations in more depth. Beau Lotto’s Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently, Chaos, Territory, Art by Elizabeth Grosz and The Mind in the Cave by David Lewis-Williams are also pretty great.
MS: What is something most people don’t know about you?
SR: I love flying…tequila…dinosaurs…and exotic plants. I started out studying architecture and played guitar and vocals in a rock band for a number of years. I also own two greyhounds, speak fluent Luxembourgish and do my creative thinking and initial lesson planning in the bath!
You can see more of Stephanie's work and also her photographic explorations on