1st solo show by Gretchen Batcheller at Swinton Gallery

March 24th 2023 – May 13th 2023

This is the artist’s first exhibit with the gallery and her first solo show in Madrid, Spain. Batcheller combines airbrush, acrylic, and oil painting media to create paintings that bridge figurative realism and abstraction. Her work is ebullient, cathartic, aggressive, and, at times, unsettlingly still. This collaborative exhibition was curated by artist and gallerist Micke Tong of IDOLWILD, Los Angeles.

Batcheller’s work brings attention to societal problems through perpetual transformation. By working the canvas’ surface through overlapping subjects, line, and a deep exploration of color, the artist brings into view ideas of imperialism, colonialism, heroism, and militarism and the effects of these things on the communities in which they exist. These notions originate from her time as a child living on a US military base in Yokohama, Japan and the Pacific islands of Hawaii. These formative years played a pivotal role in her art practice which addresses the endless social injustices that stem from colonialism and racism that affect marginalized communities. Like unfinished and overlapping conversations that fade and tumble, the viewer is propelled from one idea and image to another and is left to explore the diminished spaces in between.

One of the defining characteristics of Transient Space is its impermanence of image and idea. Batcheller’s physical process of turning her canvas’ as she paints causes her to be present for a short period of time before dismantling, layering, or repurposing an image, creating a totally new composition. In her painting, “Reverse Course,” the artist has Japanese Ultra-men style heroes facing off in battle and towering in front of a ferris wheel, but only portions of their bodies are revealed, investigating ideas of hero and victory. Similarly in “Finishing Move #1” as well as “Heroics to Capture Imagination’ and many other works,’ ideas about these action figures as representatives of saviors to the general public are explored as ephemeral solutions to deeper issues in society and colonial heritages. These transformative robots, anime figures, and uniformed crusaders reference post-war Japanese toys and television shows that were part of the artist’s childhood while living with family on a US military base in Japan. The intermingling and overlapping of image and concepts from childhood are also present in the frenzied images of work like “Stationed,” where a naval jet (the artist’s father was a Navy fighter pilot) is stretched across the background behind a masterfully blended and transparent anime girl joyfully clasping her hand’s unveiling a sign of hope.

Gretchen Batcheller received her BFA in Painting & Drawing at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington and her MFA, Painting & Drawing, at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She also attended Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, Dresden, Germany, Guest Studies under Max Uhlig. She is presently an Associate Professor III of Studio Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Gretchen’s paintings have been featured in numerous regional, national, and international venues including ESTAMPA Art Fair, Madrid, Spain with Swinton Gallery; the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA; Burgenland State Gallery in Eisenstadt, Austria; and the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art in South Korea.