Alichia van Rhijn is a South-African born Australian artist with a background in architecture and design. Her sculptures and installations explore underlying elements of memory, experience and loss. Read on for our interview with Alichia.
What is your background? How did you start working with ceramics?
I have a background in Architecture and Design and have always liked making things. A few years ago my husband bought me a wheel throwing course and I was just instantly enamoured with the tactility of clay. After making and selling little function pieces for a while I decided I wanted to further my skill set and enrolled in a Diploma of Ceramics. Through doing this course I discovered my love for sculptural ceramics and decided to go on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at The National Art School in Sydney, from which I’ve just graduated. Now I make medium to large-scale sculptural pieces for galleries and exhibitions.
Who/ what are your biggest influences?
I really love reading anything by Leonard Koren, Kenya Hara and Gaston Bachelard. At the moment I'm reading 'The Tears of Things' by Peter Schwenger and am completely obsessed. Otherwise, artists such as Lynn Chadwick, Brancusi, Louise Bourgeois, Calder and Tony Smith have always been an inspiration, particularly in how they work with material and thought, bringing something hidden from within to light through physical manifestation.
What themes do you explore in your work?
I like to create sculptural and installation-based objects and forms that examine memory, trace, experience and loss. I aim to catalogue my experiences through materials, the oddly comforting forms and the textures of both worked ceramic, metal, felt and wood. Memory and experience of place and ‘space’ are key elements in my installations and I try to examine the notion of displacement I felt as a child upon immigrating to Australia from South Africa.
How do you develop your ideas and what’s your process of working?
I often develop my ideas through research into key themes, specific memories or thoughts as well as looking at inspiration from the built and natural environment around me. Once I've settled on something I want to explore I create my work quite intuitively without much sketching or planning. Through ‘making as thinking’ most of my pieces emerge and manifest themselves.
Where do you work from? How do you like to work?
I currently work from a makeshift studio in my spare bedroom, as we had just moved back to Melbourne when COVID-19 struck. Hopefully in the next few months I will be able to sort out a proper studio again. I like to work alone so that I can connect with my thoughts. I wish I was someone that could work in a communal space around other creatives as it can be so inspiring but I find that I get too distracted and cannot focus on creating as well as I can when I'm alone. It's been nice working from home as I've got my two dogs and cat for company.
Do you have a favourite piece from your archive?
I've always loved the piece 'It's Always Sunny On The Other Side'. A lot of my work can have very difficult and troubled undertones masked by happy colours and shapes, but this is one of the few pieces I made in a really happy and joyful moment. Every time I look at it I immediately remember that moment and it just fills me with so much joy. I love that art can have that power.