I met Alice Teichert at a challenging time in her life, preparing for two shows, Reciprocity at the Art Gallery of Peterborough celebrating forty years of continuous creativity, and an exhibition at one of her dealers, the Peter Robinson Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta. In the midst of this, her husband Bobby had a serious accident, transforming Alice from one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists into his primary caregiver, and chief cook and bottle washer of their smallholding.
Reciprocity is a survey show documenting a forty year period of continuous artistic evolution and the development of an early obsession with the double page motif, inspired by exposure to music manuscripts from childhood piano lessons. Teichert discovered that every manuscript has its own particular ‘visual poetry.’ Reciprocity, from the Latin, reciprocus, meaning moving backwards and forwards, implies an exchange to mutual benefit, or a relationship of inputs and outputs in which both elements are complete, but mutually dependent.
Smaller seductively colourful pieces form the deceptive prelude to the main event located on the lower floor. Here one finds works on paper in custom-made perspex cases predating Teichert’s arrival in Canada in 1984. Austerely monochromatic, these pieces explore the theories of Jacques Derrida, a leading deconstructionist philosopher. One work reminds me of ancient Hebrew and feels significant. Mark making and how significance and meaning originate out of marks is under scrutiny, the pieces are like unfamiliar languages possessed of inaccessible meaning. An analogy with musical notation is relevant as musical notation signifies sound values in an entirely abstract manner.
Double page spreads cast in acrylic and enhanced with a compelling illuminated coloured border suggest an ecclesiastical reference…evoking visions of a contemporary holy book on a lectern. Entitled Mobile Memory, these pieces present her musical performance piece S’pos)in( in a new way. Created in collaboration with a very special artist, Dian Carlo, the translucent works allow one to experience an entire universe in the successive sequences of double pages. Take a deep breath and dive in.
Serious in tone, this show is not a retinal chromatic extravaganza, though undoubtedly Teichert is an expert colourist, only one of the larger works from 2013, hints at her exuberant ability in that regard. And what a bravura passage of painting is presented…I gaze and gaze at the right hand panel of Multiverse (Duo) in awe and continue to ponder how this was executed. With the exception of this one piece, the full scale paintings on display are withdrawn and minimalist, allowing themselves only pallid tones: this is a late pared-down string quartet of a show rather than a symphony.
So what has Teichert been doing for forty years? Following the path of a specific artistic journey is the answer, demonstrating along the way forty years of consistent logical inquiry and development. This is what a real artist does; he or she starts at point A and proceeds by stages to some unglimpsed far off and unknown destination in a fairly logical manner that the artist can explain and demonstrate. Effectively an artist follows his or her inner personal GPS. Their progress is logical. It is not a series of random actions producing images; works build on one another, the creative process is sequential.
Artists “make low-probability choices. They make choices that are unexpected, strange, that look like mistakes. Sometimes they are mistakes, recognized, in retrospect, as happy accidents. That is what originality is by definition: a low-probability choice, a choice that has never been made.”*
“Quality in art is an emergent property: it arises in the doing, in a dialogic dance between the artist and the work. As the work takes shape, it shows the artist what it wants to be.”*
“That is why successful works cannot be replicated even by the artists who create them. Every new one is a voyage of discovery, its destination unforeseeable.”*
I applaud Teichert’s courage in her selection of works exhibited in Reciprocity. She could have populated the walls with more easily digestible chromatically animated choices, but she has chosen the more difficult path. The path of the serious artist. This is not painting for pleasure but painting beyond pleasure, motivated by looking deeper. These are not paintings intended to fit into an interior design scheme; these paintings should not relate to the colour of a sofa or wall. This is painting for adults, and may not be the easiest works to appreciate, but it will be worth the effort to spend time in quiet contemplation of this restrained splendour. Repeat visits strongly recommended. Or in Teichert’s words, “Every day is a new reading space.”
Reciprocity at Art Gallery of Peterborough until October 29.
*William Deresiewicz. Persuasion.
Alice Teichert – @alice.teichert_visual.poetry
Dian Carlo – @iheartmachinist
Art Gallery of Peterborough- @agptbo_
Oeno Gallery – @oenogallery
Peter Robertson Gallery – @peterrobertsongallery
Alice Teichert’s work is available at Oeno Gallery, PEC and Peter Robinson Gallery, Alberta.