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Reviews of theatre and art in Nova Scotia and beyond

These kitties are not making nice: Mathew Reichertz delivers an amazing, immersive, comic book, art experience

Moso page 1, detail, oil on polystyrene. 2022
Installation view of Moso Park I, by Mathew Reichertz, at Hermes Gallery, 5682 North St. (Images courtesy of Mathew Reichertz)

Dated February 2, 2023

Mathew Reichertz puts viewers inside a graphic novel in giant murals of fighting cats, tumbling kids and a mysterious motorcyclist at Hermes Gallery.

This enchanting exhibit, wrapping up Sunday with an artist talk at 3 p.m., is playful, beautifully painted and a great fusion of narrative and contemporary art with a dark, urban edge. The gallery, 5682 North St., just below Agricola, is open today, Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 6 p.m.

The seven oil on polystyrene paintings are the beginning of a 14-page architectural-scale, graphic story whose plot Reichertz does not want to reveal as it’s still in progress.

Moso: Part 1 introduces key characters and begins with a tough-looking city cat licking himself then moves through a magnificent cat fight against a graffitied wall outside the gallery to a mysterious motorcycle rider, who also has a cat. The final painting depicts a father (Reichertz) talking to a friend on a sofa as kids tumble in through the front door. Through the window one sees the speeding motorcyclist in a black helmet that completely obscures his face in a sinister way.

Part of the enchantment in Moso: Part I is seeing how it refers directly to the gallery itself and to the North End neighbourhood. Hermes Gallery is only a couple and a half blocks from Reichertz’s North Street home.

One painting is set in the gallery with its light switches and gallery attendant’s table and chair. There are views outside the window to the red house across the street.

In this show Reichertz is working with the idea of immersion in three ways: the content is immersed in his own life; viewers are surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling fictional universe and “also there is a sense of immersion in an architectural space and I wanted to bring different kinds of immersion into one experience.”

The paintings are fueled by energy and a great use of line and colour in a style derived from all the comic books Reichertz has read for visual inspiration.

Few will be unmoved by the perfection of the pigeon zooming by above the cats. The frenzied, lined composition of the cat alone is worth stepping up to. All the details are delightful and discovering them is like finding like hidden treasures.

“I did read many, many comics when I was young and had a comics collection. At a certain point I realized there might be possibilities with the comics genre. I could start to experiment with it.”

For 10 years he read comics incessantly and also read American comic book artist Scott McCloud’s non-fiction, graphic book analyzing comics, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

It took Reichertz three years to get this work completed; each scene was painted in sections applied to the wall like a jigsaw puzzle with mostly invisible seams. This mode of construction emphasizes the idea of a constructed reality.

What is real and what is fictional? The viewer is in a real space looking at fictional imagery, derived from real life and set in the real space of the gallery. The style belongs to the comic book world of exaggerated action and drama with thought and speech bubbles and a hyper energy; however, the world depicted is an everyday one belonging to Hermes Gallery and North End Halifax.

Reichertz, who is an associate professor at NSCAD University, is interested in narrative and contemporary painting. For this project, he toyed with the idea of non-sequential narrative. But he decided he wanted to bring “what I think the general public writ large thinks about in terms of story telling” into contemporary art.

Moso is a recognizable story with a beginning and an end “not to say there won’t be ambiguity.”

Reichertz likes to be economical with text. “I am trying to integrate text formally but I don’t want people to have to sit and read long passages of text.”

Originally from Montreal, Reichertz completed his BFA at Concordia University and his MFA at NSCAD University. In 2005 he was the Eastern Canadian winner of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition and in 2006 he was shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award. He has exhibited nationally, did a residency at Point Pleasant Park to explore how his dog experienced the park at ground level and through his nose and had a solo show at Saint Mary’s University, which commissioned a site-specific constellations painting referring to the Burke-Gaffney Observatory and installed in the mezzanine of the Sobey School of Business. All of his art can be seen at Mathew Reichertz – home

Two images from the fight scene in Moso: Part I by Mathew Reichertz

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