Leonie Rittscher: at home in my memory

A memory has the capacity to be strong, vivid, and all-consuming. Or it can be deep in our subconscious, from a time when we weren’t even aware. Sometimes you can feel completely at home in a foreign country. Or you can feel like a stranger in your childhood bedroom. To painter Leonie Rittscher, the feelings of home and memory are complex. The feelings can fluctuate; they can intertwine with one another. They can exist in different places in time but also all in one moment. Her work is an exploration of the places and people near and far to her and the acceptance she finds within them.

Where are you from?

“Where are you from?” is a complicated question for Leonie. She was born and raised in Upstate New York, and moved to Oxford, England when she was 10. She then moved back to the U.S. to pursue a degree in painting at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, before ending up here in Leipzig for PILOTENKUECHE’s artist residency. And soon she will set off once again to finish her painting education in Camberwell College of Arts in London.

images by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by artist

With this ever-changing base, it’s no wonder the idea of home is of much contemplation for Leonie. Maybe not always represented as a physical space, but home is definitely a feeling that exists within her paintings. You can tell its importance, whether through the thoughtful studies of interior spaces familiar to her, through Baltimore’s architecture, or through the depictions of important people in her life. One can see the influence of artists like Alice Neel or Jennifer Packer in her subject matter and style. The muses of Leonie’s portraits often have calm, mellow expressions, sometimes even resting with their eyes closed, fitting of the relaxed persona that Leonie herself radiates.

Painting intuitively

Leonie works in a variety of approaches. Sometimes using her friends as live models, sometimes working from photographs, she always adds her loose spin on the traditional medium. Her expressive artistic style and fascination with warm tones and light is guided by her intuition and her memory of the person as she paints. It’s an exploration of what the unconscious mind can create, beyond the references we can physically see. In her work A Memory of three rooms, she demonstrates this stowed subconscious memory of her grandma through the physical spaces that hold her past, a past from before Leonie herself even existed.

“No one is who they are as an individual, everyone is shaped by past memories and people, conscious or subconscious.”

Leonie also experiments with mixed media and collage in her work. In her self-portrait piece Hollow, she uses transfers of actual photographs as the starting point of her work, creating ghost-like images within the background of her painting. In her piece Tallies, she takes a motif from a wooden tray in her house and turns it into the background of a portrait of her mother. She finds inspiration in the objects that hold meaning to her and incorporates them into her work. She sees these paintings as a place for the past, present, and future to exist without separation.

Humans need humans

So what is this fascination Leonie has with the memories of loved ones? Maybe it’s her self-diagnosed struggle to stay present and the nostalgia she has for places of her past. Or maybe it’s just the basic fact that humans need each other. And these feelings and memories are representative of that. In a contemporary world where individual growth and independence are idolized, we stray further from connection with one another. “Self-growth pushes ‘being the best version of yourself’, but independent from other people,” Leonie states. And though individuality is indeed crucial for survival, it’s been proven, time and time again, that we do in fact need each other as well. Connection cures us all. Leonie’s paintings serve as an ode to the people she loves and the emotions they’ve allowed her to feel.

Is there anything that Leonie wants us to take from her work? Not necessarily. She emphasizes the importance of not wanting to impose views on how people interpret her work. Her art is a way for her to connect to herself through the people and places that shaped who she is. And though she finds value in the flow of making, she struggles with the internal battle of seeing art as a somewhat selfish thing to focus her energy on. But painting is an outlet for Leonie, and even a gesture of love. And the love she depicts is enough for strangers to see its value as well.

written by Neena Bui

windy HOME
part of Tour de Franz

Sat 25 & Sun 26 May
2PM – 7PM

Franz-Flemming-Str 9
04179 Leipzig

mute BODY

Vernissage Fri 21 June 7-10 PM
Sat 22 – Wed 26 June 4-8 PM

Alte Handelsschule
Giesserstr 75
04229 Leipzig