March 2009 | Michael Lieberman

The Bookshelf Portraits of Victoria Reichelt

Possession Obsession, oil on canvas, 2008, 46 x 86cm

Tolstoi, oil on canvas, 2006, 50 x 50c

David Sequeira, oil on canvas, 2008, 80 x 60.5cm

Napoleon, oil on canvas, 2006, 60 x 60cm

Australian artist Victoria Reichelt has been painting bookshelf portraits for a few years. Recently, she began painting portraits of the bookshelves of actual people.

"This was a different way to do a portrait - because the decisions people make about the books they choose to buy, keep and display, reveals a lot about them. It offers a deeper insight into their interests and inspirations" Reichelt told the Inside Out blog who call Reichelt's work a "debate about 'the death of painting' and painting's relationship with photography."

Reichelt continues: "These works are a paradox to paint - as once the books are an image on canvas, they are shut forever and can never be read. In a painting, they serve a very different purpose from their intended function - they are purely objects like the others I paint and you're forced to judge them by the covers."

The same could easily be said for photography. Once the picture is taken and the image developed one is "forced to judge" by what is presented.

It will be interesting to see how her work continues to evolve. The leap from painting staged bookshelves to actual bookshelves is huge and opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. Imagine high-end collectors having portraits done of their collections to complement their own portraits or a Candida Hofer approach of large scale paintings of library shelves that can be sold or given to top supporters.

The Dianne Tanzer Gallery will have show of Reichelt's work in November.

She received a $10,000 New Work Grant from the Australia Council for her exhibition Bibliomania: The Bookshelf Portrait Project which was held at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in Melbourne in 2008.

Thanks to the blog of the Kenyon Review for the lead