In light of Robert Kirchner’s forthcoming exhibition, Difference and Repetition, we take a moment to discuss some of the key themes and explorations within his art practice.
Robert, your work predominantly features paintings and woodblock prints of skeletal-like tree branches, foliage and still life. There appears to be a significant degree of quiet observation in your work. Would you agree with this statement, and could you explain some of the main themes within your art practice?
Yes, I would agree with the statement that my work arises out of the quiet observation of nature. I seek to explore the dichotomy between stillness and movement, through the process of observation and markmaking. I express my observation of the natural world in the form of line and colour field. The subject of trees are a main theme within in my work, I see them as moving bodies. I seek to express that movement, in the form of line, a line being the movement from one point to another, and colour, as a slow moving field that differentiates and repeats itself in a flowing form. Trees grow, expand, and fall and if you imagine that flow in the layer of time, you will have the essence of nature, flow, stillness, and movement expressing itself continuously.
You have had the good fortune to live, work and study around the world – your hometown is in Johannesburg, South Africa, however you completed your Bachelor of Fine Arts in Switzerland. You have since had several exhibitions across Europe and are now based in Melbourne, Australia. Can you talk about some of the key influences that this international experience has had on your art practice?
I am reminded again of the theme of movement. The constant shifting of territories has been a confrontation with displacement and isolation. Finding myself between the familiar and unknown, seeking out my identity as an artist in the context of art history, and the social political territory – it is within nature that I have found a constant theme.
Can you talk a little bit about your upcoming exhibition Difference and Repetition at Fox Galleries next month? I understand that the title is in reference to the text by French Philosopher Giles Deluze published in 1968?
Giles Deluze talks about metaphysical concepts that describe the natural world in terms of bodies composed of sets of flows, living things as flows of biological material through developmental systems. How nature constantly differentiates and repeats itself. I find these ideas fascinating and relate them to my own understanding of nature and observation within my work.
I have created a body of work including prints, using the contemporary technique of Sōsaku-hanga, an art movement of woodblock printing conceived in early 20th-century Japan.
I seek to capture movement, in the form of line work and understand these primarily as static compositions.
The paintings I understand as territories. Through the process by which the ensemble of relationships, lose their current organisation and context – they shift between the figurative and abstract.
Painting itself is mercurial. It is created in a state of flow, juxtaposed against the static composition of the woodblock print. The body of work revisits a recurring theme that differentiates and repeats itself in constantly shifting territories.
What’s next for you?
I am going to stay in Australia for the foreseen future. I am working from the studio in Melbourne on drawings and photographs for my next body of work, exploring native Australian species.
Robert Kirchner’s forthcoming exhibition, Difference and Repetition, will run from September 18 to October 30 at Fox Galleries.