Working with artistic Garbage

Local artist Mathew Reichertz’s latest work is Garbage, an exhibition focusing on a narrative taking place in the north end of Halifax.

The Saint Mary’s University art gallery held an opening reception for two exhibitions last week.

Garbage by Reichertz and XO Planet by Emily Davidson both draw inspiration from the graphic novel.

Stepping into the gallery is like stepping onto a page of a comic book.

The white walls pop with colour as viewers are led through a tale of neighbourhood, city and place in Garbage.

Reichertz’s work focuses on experiences of a neighbourhood, and happenings surrounding the destiny of one large piece of garbage: a white couch.

The artist moved to Halifax in 1997 and is adamant the protagonist in the story is not him.

Though, like many artists, he draws from personal experience.

“In fact, I shaved last night … I don’t want to look like the person in the pictures.”

The story — or non-story as the artist refers to it — revolves around he couch, but not much happens.

The work is narrative but at the same time purposely ambiguous. Reichertz explains while there are influences and reflections of his own life, he doesn’t paint surroundings as inspiration.

“If I want to be able to address something in a more complex way, I always have to end up going back to my own experience. But I don’t see that as a strength or weakness, I just see that as the way it is,” says Reichertz.

Robin Metcalfe, the gallery’s director and curator, explains the exhibition was “interesting to install because we made different decisions than we would with other work.

For example, expanding to occupy much of the wall because I think we realized that we want people to experience the walls as pages.”

Installation of the exhibition is a thought-out collaboration between artist, curator and assistant curator Pam Corell.

The decisions made about the presentation of the work are closely tied to the artist’s conception. The intricate placement of the polystyrene images is also crucial for public experience.

A piece from Garbage
A piece from Garbage. (Photos: Gabby Peyton)

(Photos: Gabby Peyton)

A more sensitive image is purposely placed behind a wall.

“The f-bomb gets dropped rather spectacularly in the installation and we don’t censor our work here, but we do like to give the viewer a chance to enter into the space and negotiate their interaction with it,” says Metcalfe.

Metcalfe is heading up a bigger project involving Reichertz’s work.

They have received a grant for $10,000 from Arts Nova Scotia to publish a book based on Garbage.

Like the exhibition, the book will read like a comic.

“When you pick it up, first when you open it what you will see is the narrative, then in the back part of the book we’ll have essays and technical information on the exhibition,” says Metcalfe.

The side gallery hosts another genre of comic: feminist sci-fi.

Davidson’s XO Planet features “an alien from a feminist XO Planet who is visiting earth and puzzling over why we do things the way we do,” says Metcalfe.

Davidson is a recent NSCAD University graduate and does a lot of work with printed matter.

Metcalfe hopes the sequence of images will help to start a conversation about how narrative is rendered in visual art.

Garbage and XO Planet run until March 8.

Artist Mathew Reichertz stands in front of a section of his life-size graphic narrative Garbage. (Photos: Gabby Peyton)
Artist Mathew Reichertz stands in front of a section of his life-size graphic narrative Garbage.

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