New Zealand artist Sonia Richter blurs the boundaries between painting, sculpture and fashion in three dimensional wall-hung pieces which tell stories that are both personal and universal. Vintage shop finds and long-treasured pieces, from boyfriends’ shirts to vintage dresses, provide inspiration for works which might be theatrical or thought-provoking, humorous, sexy or nostalgic.
“I have always had a huge interest in clothing design and wearable art. This comes through strongly in my recent painting” says Richter.
Richter held her first solo show in 2002. She was largely self-taught but a desire to learn more about international art within a New Zealand context, led her to art school in 2003. Here Richter enjoyed professional tuition and full immersion in her practice. She has since participated in group and solo shows.
Over the past decade Richter’s canvases have become increasingly figurative with vintage clothing and found objects providing the impetus for her painterly expression. She works primarily on a large-scale in acrylic on canvas or board, and sometimes includes flowers, organic material (partly a nod to Anselm Kiefer, b.1945), animal bones and religious or cultural symbols.
Trench coats, jackets and shirts have proved particularly willing subjects. The Unusual Suspects I and II are both funky and intriguing. “There is a sense mystery” says Richter. “Who wore this jacket? Why was it left behind? Was it someone’s father’s favorite or a previous lover’s? Was it left behind absentmindedly or deliberately?”
International art historical precedents include American pop artist Jim Dine (b. 1935), whose self-portraits of the 1960s featured a bathrobe which he considered a universal symbol representing both the personal and the common.
For the past two years Richter has been working on several series concurrently and pushing into the “wildly creative fashion side of things” making rock star-style jackets covered in glitter (she recreated Prince’s famous Purple Rain jacket) and costumes with feathers, horns, corsets and long dresses to reference myth and history or to talk about topical contemporary issues close to her heart.