New Zealand painter Gretchen Albrecht's achievements reside in a refined aesthetic practice characterised by its concise iconography. Her application of paint into, rather than onto, the canvas unifies the materials and surfaces of her images as self-contained aesthetic objects imbued with narrative possibilities.Read More
Gretchen Albrecht attended Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, graduating in 1963. By the end of the same decade she had established a profile as an artist of considerable promise with a series of colour-stained canvases that invited comparison with the work of Helen Frankenthaler.
The stained canvases that catapulted Gretchen Albrecht's success are large-scale rectangular pieces upon which delicate washes of acrylic are built up. Work such as Pink Cloud over Landscape (1972) exemplify the artist's approach of this period, where vibrant layers of colour act as a poetic rendition of scenes of nature.
In 1981 Gretchen Albrecht completed her first semi-circular 'hemisphere' canvases. Undertaken after a visit to Italy in 1979, analogies have been drawn between these paintings and some of the formal elements found in Renaissance art, in particular the composition of paintings by Piero della Francesca and other early Renaissance masters.
In 1989 Gretchen Albrecht developed a series of oval-shaped canvases that, like the 'hemisphere' paintings, reconcile dualities of order and impulse. These oval canvases often combine geometric and organic motifs, with works such as Light and Shadow (2016) layering rectangular forms on top of brooding tonalities.
With the arrival of the new millennium, Gretchen Albrecht extended her painterly practice to the world of sculpture, creating large stainless steel pieces that bring her visual language into three dimensions. Works such as Crossing (2005) replace the vibrant colours of her paintings with a monochromatic silver, allowing the languages of shape and shadow to take precedence.
The 21st century also saw Gretchen Albrecht return to rectangular canvases with motifs reminiscent of her oval canvases. Where the oval canvases find their edges, however, these new rectangular canvases—such as Rosa Splendour (2013)—bleed into the surrounding rectangular space, creating new senses of movement and life.
Gretchen Albrecht's work is held in the collections of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; Dunedin Public Art Gallery; Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū; Creative New Zealand, Wellington; and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; amongst others. She lives and works in Auckland.
Biography by Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2020
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