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Judith Ritchie, The Nelson Mail, 11 April 2012
While on an arts residency, Lisa Chandler delved into the dynamics of urban culture and gentrification, reports Judith Ritchie.
Between Yesterday and Tomorrow has opened at the Mckee Gallery featuring five large and four small paintings. The works are the creative output of artist Lisa Chandler, while on the Leipzig International Artist Programme (LIAP) in Leipzig, Germany, between March and June this year.
Chandler's paintings make reference to elements of urban life; derelict buildings, graffiti, skyscrapers, cranes and trees merge in and out of elements of abstraction, leaving the viewer to contemplate their own relationship with urban environments. A window, or door appears in every painting, creating a visual portal for departure or entry.
"Although these spaces are desolate and decaying, they can also be perceived as spaces of opportunity, as a portal or passage - looking into the future or back into the past," says Chandler.
Vast tracts of Leipzig, a city of over half a million, used to be wastelands with over 60,000 vacant industrial buildings. Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others and the development of modern infrastructure.
Chandler has explored the concept of gentrification, where the wealthy move into working-class areas and change the social and visual character of a suburb, eventually displacing the original working class inhabitants.
"Gentrification, a hot topic in Leipzig right now, is generally perceived as inevitable and inevitably bad," says Chandler. "To the dismay of many Leipzigers, their city has recently been coined 'the New Berlin' and many fear that the city will become too popular and too expensive."
LIAP is located in the Spinnerei, which is a huge art hub based in an old cotton mill with around 100 artist studios and 15 galleries/art spaces. The cotton mill was the largest in Europe and at its peak employed up to 40,000 people. There are five international artists on the LIAP at any one time, staying between one to six months.
"In the Spinnerei and in Leipzig painting is the main focus and is highly respected," says Chandler. "Most of the gallery exhibitions in the Spinnerei are of painting and most of the 100 artists working there are painters; so as a painter myself, that was very special."
LIAP provided a monthly programme of activities which included studio visits, gallery tours, a critique by a local art curator, plus outings to places of interest. Chandler and her husband Mark Tregurtha lived in an 80sqm studio/ work space, set up for couples and families.
After photographing the urban environment around the suburb of Plagwitz, near the Spinnerei, and studying the images, Chandler began to notice patterns emerging. Negative spaces between buildings, roof trusses and broken windows became the compositional focus of Between Yesterday and Tomorrow. Chandler also used spray paint on her work for the first time.
"My new paintings also have many more layers compared to my last works," says Chandler. "I am using so much more paint than before; luckily art supplies are cheaper in Germany."
The titles of Chandler's paintings are proverbs by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, considered the greatest German literary figure of the modern era.
Chandler and Tregurtha have set up a permanent base in Leipzig, dividing their time now between Leipzig and Nelson each year.
"We've made huge changes over the last couple of years to get this point, selling our house, Mark leaving his full-time job and saving hard to afford the change in lifestyle."
She has also secured a permanent studio space in the Spinnerei complex and will head back in March 2017, working on exhibiting Between Yesterday & Tomorrow in Leipzig in mid 2017.
Between Yesterday & Tomorrow, Lisa Chandler, The McKee Gallery, the Suter Gallery, Bridge St, Nelson, to November 13. Floor talk on Saturday November 5, 2pm.